KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian maritime authorities on Wednesday publicly set fire to a foreign fishing boat for the first time in a move to deter illegal fishing.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said authorities had previously quietly sunk 285 foreign fishing boats nationwide to create artificial reefs but the method failed to attract attention and curb illegal fishing.
It said the boat was set ablaze at sea before being sunk earlier Wednesday off northern Kelantan state, the first time authorities took the public step to stave off incursions by foreign trawlers. It didn’t say where the boat was from.
“The disposal by burning method is aimed at sending a clear message to the domestic and international community that the Malaysian government is serious in battling the incursion of foreign fishermen in our waters,” Mohamad Taha Ibrahim, the agency’s deputy director-general of operations, said in a statement.
Authorities have described illegal fishing by foreign vessels as a serious issue that has depleted resources in Malaysian waters and cost the government an estimated 6 billion ringgit ($1 .4 billion) in revenue annually. The Fisheries Department’s director-general, Ismail Abu Hassan, recently said big fishing vessels, mainly from Vietnam and Thailand, steal some 980,000 tons of fish from Malaysian waters each year.