THE MEMBER SPEAKS | M’sia should ratify treaties to protect our fishermen, the oceans

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THE MEMBER SPEAKS | Yesterday, I participated in a regional webinar on the ratification and implementation of the provisions of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement for Asia organized by the International Maritime Organization and PEW Research as a member of the executive committee of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and as a Malaysian MP.

Malaysia has the 29th longest coastline in the world, with the Strait of Malacca being one of the busiest sea routes for shipping and East Malaysia having some of the best coral reefs in the world. A busy road also opens up any nation to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, illicit trafficking in drugs, small arms and light weapons, and trafficking in human beings.

In 2016, Malaysia lost 6 billion ringgit due to IUU fishing and despite increased enforcement and surveillance, in 2019 we reported losses of 4.2 billion ringgit. Years and years of overfishing, destructive fishing practices and poaching have also resulted in the decline of Malaysia’s fish stocks.

Bahiyuddin, a local fisherman from Dungun, Terengganu is one of those hit hard by this disaster at sea. The obscure borders and maritime territorial disputes have been an ongoing problem for years and have thus allowed IUU fishing to grow. thrive in the region, with some Malaysian fishermen arrested by Indonesian authorities while still in Malaysian waters.

Rosilawati, a fisherman off Pahang, told reporters with the Environmental Reporting Collective (ERC) that foreign vessels entering Malaysian waters are destroying coral reefs using illegal trawler nets, which locals call pukat gading. “Without corals, the seabed becomes bare. It’s like a desert – who or what would want to live in a desert? “

Evade the law

Sometimes these foreign ships, which are often part of a union, pay local fishermen up to RM30,000 per month so they can dress up as Malaysian boats and even paint their boats bright red like Kelantan fishermen do.

There have also been alleged leaks of intelligence on patrol and law enforcement operations that allow these perpetrators at sea to escape. Informants roam around and when they spot a police ship, they alert their bosses.

Transhipment, which is the transfer of fish and seafood from smaller vessels when their storage is full to larger vessels, also known as a ‘logistics vessel’ or ‘mother ship’ with a large another main catalyst for IUU fishing is a refrigerator that will allow small boats to fish endlessly.

While transshipment is illegal and banned in Malaysia, unions have found a way around the law and the watchful eyes of our maritime patrols by ensuring that transfers take place away from port authorities and on blurred lines.

Human rights violations also occurred on ships where a transshipment in Thailand resulted in the deaths of her crew and others suffering from beriberi and malnutrition. As a deterrent in Malaysian waters, the Malaysian Marine Enforcement Agency routinely sinks the boats of people convicted of IUU fishing.

Like the act of money laundering on land, “fish laundering” occurs at sea by the meticulous mixing of legally caught fish with those caught illegally.

The Malaysian Fisheries Department told the ERC that 80% of the more than 300 IUU fishermen they caught in 2019 and 2020 were from Vietnam.

As Malaysia continued the battle against Covid-19, fishermen faced the negative impact of IUU fishing on fisheries and aquaculture food systems. As front liners at sea, their rights, safety, well-being and sustainability must be the most important goal of government.

Why Malaysia should sign and ratify the Cape Town Accord (CTA)

As a partner in the campaign to protect the oceans, Parliamentarians for Global Action rightly states that “the Cape Town Accord (CTA) is fundamental to ensuring the safety of fishing vessels and protecting the lives of fishermen in the one of the most dangerous professions in the world. And its ratification and entry into force will help fight IUU fishing, reduce marine litter from international fishing vessels, and limit the number of dangerous long-range search and rescue calls to fishing vessels in distress. by state, merchant and naval search and rescue personnel. fleets and other fishing vessels. Until the entry into force of the CTA, there are no mandatory global safety regulations for fishing vessels.

To date, the CTA has been signed by 14 countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kiribati, Liberia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis , Spain and Sweden.

How will Malaysia benefit if it signs and ratifies the CTA?

• Mandatory global safety regulations for fishermen and vessels

• Vessel and crew included in international maritime regulations

• Provides a level playing field for all industry participants

• Safety certifications

• Inspections of working conditions

However, as Malaysia has not signed and ratified the CTA, it is on the Red List among other countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Canada and others in the Global Tuna Alliance list. (GTA) and Tuna Protection Alliance (TUPA). .

Of course, not all signed international treaties and conventions are legally binding in our country where national laws take precedence, but rather act as an international instrument, a global standard of best practice to ensure social justice for fishermen as well. .

If Malaysia does not ratify the ILO Work in Fishing Convention and the CTA, it is acting as a state party that will continue to allow violations against our fishermen.

Although the Malaysian Fisheries Department is currently revising the 1985 Fisheries Act to increase fines and jail terms as a deterrent, these fish thieves don’t seem to care or have been affected – paying a hefty fine and continuing their terrible business seems like a piece of cake.

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim stressed in an October 2020 statement: “The world has changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has shown that the ability of fishermen to deliver fruit from sustainably sourced seafood is more important than ever. The safety of fishermen and fishing boats is paramount.

Malaysia has a duty to sign and ratify the Work in Fishing Convention and the CTA in order to safeguard and protect our fishermen and our ocean.


KASTHURI PATTO is the MP for Batu Kawan.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author / contributor and do not necessarily represent those of Malaysiakini.

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