PASIR PUTEH, Feb 25 — The Kelantan Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) arrested 23 Vietnamese fishermen and seized two fishing vessels with a total value of RM3 million in an operation conducted on Thursday.

Its director Maritime Captain Erwan Shah Soahdi said that the two boats were seized at 126 to 128 nautical miles off Tok Bali estuary after being spotted at 7.22am during an operation along the Malaysia-Vietnam maritime borders.

“The two boats initially did not cooperate and tried to flee to the border of the country’s waters when they were instructed to stop the boat,” he said in a press conference at the Kelantan MMEA office in Tok Bali, today.

The MMEA vessels intercepted the first boat at 8.39am, followed by the second boat at 9.27am, he said.

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He added that the inspections found that the first boat was manned by 17 crew members including a skipper while the second boat was operated by six crew members including a skipper, all aged 19 to 63.

Erwan Shah said that MMEA also seized about 1,000 kilogrammes (kg) of catch, fishing equipment, navigation and communication equipment and supplies of 2,000 litres of diesel from the two boats.

He said the process of towing the two boats took more than 24 hours before arriving at Kelantan Maritime jetty at 11am on Friday.

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He said that the two fishing vessels were suspected of illegal fishing activities in the country’s waters and the case was being investigated under Section 15 (1) (a) for failing to display fishing authorisation documents.

He added that two skippers were suspected of violating Section 16 (3) of the Fisheries Act 1985 while the crew members were being investigated under Section 6 (1) (c) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 for failing to display valid identification documents. — Bernama