KOTA KINABALU - Dozens of giant clams weighing nearly 20 tonnes were seized from nine Vietnamese fishermen at the Mengalum Island near here.
The clams are valued at about RM 1.2million (S$463,000). The endangered and protected marine species in Sabah were found on a boat operated by a Sabah and Vietnamese joint venture company.
"Nine crew members were on board at the time of the arrest, in the ongoing Ops Cantas Laut by marine police, at about 10.30am on April 10," said Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib.
He added that although this was the first arrest and seizure of such a nature, marine police believed the culprits had been harvesting giant clams illegally for quite some time.
"Police would also be investigating the boat company here, while the nine Vietnamese will be referred to the Land and Survey Department for further action," he said.
Hamza explained that the case was first referred to the Fisheries Department but was told that it was under the Land and Survey Department's jurisdiction as "they were taken from the seabed, which is considered part of the land".
The shells of the giant clams can be used for cosmetic and decorative purposes.
The clams cannot be harvested or sold without a licence from the relevant authorities.
"Many people might not know about this," said Hamza, adding that the giant clams were rare.
"Of the less than 10 species in the world, seven were known to be found in Sabah."