The Fisheries Department has formed a committee to take action against illegal fishing by trawlers near Taninthayi coast, following a complaint lodged by an MP.
The move came after a meeting of MPs, officials from the Fisheries Department, and local fishery businessmen on 14 December in Myeik about illegal fishing, which has been hurting traditional fishing by local people.
“The local fishermen are relying on traditional fishing in inshore areas, and they cannot rely on fishing for their livelihood today due to illegal fishing. They have voiced their concern over illegal commercial fishing by trawlers near Kyunsu Township. The trawlers have been coming from other areas. I have also raised these concerns before the Hluttaw several times. But, effective action against illegal fishing is yet to be taken,” Amyotha Hluttaw MP U Zaw Hein from Kyunsu Township.
He filed a complaint with the Fisheries Department after making a observation of the areas from 3 to 10 November, collecting information and evidence on the ground.
MP U Zaw Hein said during the trip, he saw 10 illegal trawlers, with names and numbers covered, fishing near Donnyaunghmai Village, near Domae Island and Mali Island.
The authorities will investigate the complaint and inspect whether trawlers are coming to inshore areas, according to the Fisheries Department.
“The areas mentioned in the complaint are inshore areas. And, it is illegal to cover the names and numbers of fishing boats. Now, we are finding out who owns the boats and business licenses for the boats,” said U Myint Shwe, the Deputy Head of the Taninthayi Region Fisheries Department.
Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) to curb illegal fishing
“Areas around the islands are considered inshore according to the existing law. But, some islands are located offshore. This can confuse people and lead to problems,” said U Tin Ko Ko Oo, a member with a local civil society organization.
To effectively check illegal fishing, helmsmen and owners of boats must be fined instead of arresting workers, he said.
“If all fishing boats were ordered to install the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) by law, 70 per cent of this problem would have been resolved,” he said.
The Fisheries Department is preparing to launch a program to install VMS on fishing boats in the 2019-2020 fishing season.
“Whenever we met with local fishing businessmen and helmsmen, we advised them not to break the law and to fish in designated areas. We offered our help if they encountered difficulties in fishing. But, we will work on this complaint in the right way. If they are found guilty, effective action should be taken against them,” said the Secretary of the Myeik District Fisheries Federation.
There are about 2,500 licensed boats for inshore fishing and 800 licensed boats for offshore fishing in Myeik District, which employ 16,000 workers.
The fisheries authorities briefed fishing companies and leaders of boats on fishing rules and directives at the One Stop Service Centre in Myeik in December, and before the boats went to sea, sought their promise not to break the law, according to the Fisheries Department.
The Myanmar Marine Fishery Law is being modernized to meet the international standards, according to the Department of Fisheries.
Khaing Htoo (Myeik IPRD)
(Translated by Kyaw Zin Lin)