By Dr. Abdul Razak Ahmad, the Founding Director of Bait Al Amanah
The issue of illegal fishing within Malaysia's "zone" is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for years without any concrete strategies to address it. - pic sourced from Borneo Post
SHAH ALAM: Rising inflation and food security are becoming a cause of concern as people look at different alternatives to fulfill the demand for food supply.
While Malaysia struggles to contend with the price control of raw materials, the country is also losing more fish in the sea due to illegal fishing and pollution.
The consequences will badly impact food security as the sea is not only a crucial resource for livelihood but a valuable source of protein and has enormous pharmaceutical potentials.
The fishing industry is also a crucial source of employment, especially in rural Malaysia.
We should allow our armed forces to execute their duties and enforce our rights in exclusive economic zones by taking stern actions against illegal fishing.
Malaysia has an exclusive economic zone - an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea of Malaysia and extends to a distance of two hundred nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
In the exclusive economic zone, Malaysia has sovereign rights for exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the seabed and subsoil and the superjacent waters, and concerning other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone.
The issue of illegal fishing within Malaysia's "zone" is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for years without any concrete strategies to address it.
From 2016 to 2020, we had seen incidents where the navy and the Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had taken action such as detaining and even shooting a Vietnamese fisherman who attempted to run the MMEA vessels.
With proper protocols and in compliance with international maritime law, Malaysia’s maritime armed forces should have complete authority to execute their duties and defend our territory rightfully.
The execution of duty within the "Malaysian fisheries waters," which means all waters comprising the internal waters, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of Malaysia allow Malaysia to exercise sovereign and exclusive rights over fisheries.
With this clarity in the mandate, we should have moved past the issue of permitting the armed forces to play their role effectively.
Malaysia should also consolidate its ability to carry out its surveillance and enforcement operations. Its mandate is best served with the procurement and usage of the most advanced defense technology.
Equipped with the sophisticated naval defense system, Malaysia could also mitigate the problem of maritime piracy and not just illegal fishing. Greater defense investment is vital for maintaining a formidable naval force.
The nearest example to compare is Singapore, Malaysia's tiny neighbour, possesses strong and formidable maritime forces. While Singapore owns four submarines, Malaysia currently maintains half of the number.
Considering the length of coastline Malaysia possessed at approximately 4,809 km, the dwarf state Singapore only controls about 193 km of coastline, making it at least 24 times smaller length to control but highly equipped with sophisticated technology.
The development of Chinese and regional maritime forces cannot be ignored by Malaysia's officials and it is an additional incentive for the improvement of the Malaysian Navy.
Presently, Malaysia is already practicing the use of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for tracking ships to avoid a collision from the loss of lives and property. AIS cannot be switched off, except for very few exceptions. According to International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines provided by Resolution A.
AIS should always be in operation when ships are underway or at anchor even when the boats have turned off the transponders which are typically used to track vessels. Marine policing should focused in finding strategy to combat illegal fishermen without the AIS tracking.
Illegal fishing is an indicator of weak maritime territorial security, therefore Malaysia needs to beef up its ability to carry out operations in taking up arms against the illicit act of exploiting our marine life.
*This article is originally published on Sinar Daily.