An agreement between Indonesia and Malaysia on the fair treatment of their fishermen by maritime law enforcement agencies is flawed and encourages illegal fishing practices, critics say. The motive in signing the agreement in late January was for both countries to protect their fishermen operating in areas in and around their maritime boundaries, according to Abdul Halim from the People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice
. However, the agreement “does not specifically address illegal fishing by fishermen from other countries,” he said. “The agreement is being abused by foreigners who falsely operate under the Malaysian flag to fish illegally,” he added. According to the agreement Indonesian and Malaysian boats encroaching in each other’s waters are simply asked to leave. Those boats using illegal practices such as the use of explosives or electrical and chemical fishing gear are detained. Foreigners who fly the Malaysian flag and adopt accepted fishing practices know they will be dealt with leniently, Halim said. Data from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries says out of 1,150 fishing boats stopped since January, 39 were found to be using illegal methods. Of this number 28 were found to be from foreign countries and flying the Malaysian flag, while the other 11 were Indonesian boats.