Malaysia: Fish bombings near oil rigs

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 20 Aug 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Cases of illegal fish bombing near the national oil company’s oil rigs off Sabah is triggering alarm bells as it could lead to serious losses and environmental damage.

Petronas Sabah and Labuan chairman Mohamed Firouz Asnan said fishermen carrying out the illegal activity preferred to let off bombs close to the oil rigs as there was an abundance of fish in the area.

“According to our records, the number of such cases are quite big and it is an alarming situation for us,” he said during a media briefing on the Sahabat Maritim Programme here yesterday.

He said such acts not only pose a danger to the fishermen themselves but also disrupt operations, damage Petronas assets and endanger the lives of their divers carrying out their duties.

Firouz said Petronas also recorded a high occurrence encroachment by vessels coming within the 500m safety radius of its rigs.

Some 9,000 encroachment incidents occurred over the last three years, with Sabah making up the most of it, he said, adding that encroachment was an everyday incident.

In a bid to reduce fish bombing and encroachment activities, Petronas is working with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency to curb the problem through various awareness programmes.

The Sahabat Maritim Outreach programme will be held at Pulau Mantanani off Kota Belud district on Saturday and it will involve everyone in the area.

MMEA’s Sabah and Labuan Maritime operations director Laksamana Pertama Adam Aziz, however, said they were able to act against the illegal fisher bombers and the number of cases had steadily decreased since 2012.

“This is due to the ongoing operations conducted by enforcement agencies at sea,” he said, adding that it was not an easy task preventing fishermen from going near oil rigs as the fish near the area were grade A.

Apart from the abundance of fish there, fishermen were also attracted by the types of fish that can be found there, such as red snapper and Kerapu, Adam said.

“It is also difficult for us to bring the cases down to zero because many of those who tend to bend the law are non-registered fishermen and illegal immigrants,” he added.