KUALA LUMPUR: The government will not shoot-on-sight skippers and crew of foreign vessels caught fishing illegally in Malaysian waters.

Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said this practise would be against the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which prohibits even imprisonment for fisheries offences.

Instead, he said those found guilty by the court would have the ownership of the vessels stripped from them, and have their boats scuttled into the sea.

“Several MPs had proposed heftier punishments, including that we shoot on sight the perpetrators or whip them. However, the UN convention clearly does not allow this, and we have to obey.

“So the best way is to confiscate their vessels and sink them. Indonesia and Thailand have done this, so why not us,” he said when winding up the debate on the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2019 in the Dewan Rakyat, here, today.

Several MPs, including Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali (PH-Bagan Serai) and RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong), had earlier during the debate urged the government to be more firm with their actions against foreign fishing boats trespassing into local waters.

The Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2019 was later passed after a simple voice vote, with no lawmakers voting against the amendments.

Under the amendments, a maximum fine of RM6 million will be imposed on owners and skippers of foreign vessels that trespass into Malaysia, up from the current RM1 million.

The penalty for crew members will also be raised six-fold, from RM100,000 to RM600,000.