Vietnamese held for poaching sea cucumber

Vietnamese held for poaching sea cucumber
Going to shore: Maritime enforcement officers taking the Vietnamese fishermen into custody in Tok Bali.

BACHOK - A group of Vietnamese fishermen with more than 500kg of sea cucumber has been arrested about 50 nautical miles west of Tok Bali.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency's Kelantan chief Kapt Nurul Hizam Zakaria said the Vietnamese fishermen were acting suspiciously when they were intercepted by enforcement officers at 11.50am on Tuesday.

"The captain and several crew members, aged between 16 and 48, have been detained for questioning.

"We found the fermented sea cucumber, stolen from Malaysian waters, hidden under fresh fish in blue plastic containers," he told reporters at the agency's headquarters here yesterday.

Kapt Nurul Hizam added that the boat captain did not have a permit to harvest sea cucumber within Malaysian waters.

The group will be remanded for 14 days to facilitate investigations.

Investigations revealed that the Vietnamese fishermen would enter Malaysian waters during the height of the sea cucumber season to harvest them.

Sea cucumber or its scientific name Stichopus horrens has high medicinal values and can fetch good prices.

"Processed sea cucumber can fetch RM13,000 (S$4,855) in Vietnam.

"Based on statistics, between January and April, four Vietnamese boats had been detained by the authorities for illegally trawling in Malaysian waters and stealing sea cucumber," said Kapt Nurul Hizam.

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