KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government plans to implement an amnesty programme next year to address the region’s decades-long problem with fishing vessel licences.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said there are currently more than 11,000 fishing vessel licences still active in Sabah.
“However, many of these licensees do not adhere to the conditions of their licences. This has been an ongoing problem for more than three decades, and something needs to be done about it.
“However, we will not punish licensees without offering them the opportunity to keep their licences, robbing them of their source of income,” he said after attending a briefing held by the Fisheries Department here today.
Kitingan, who is also the Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, said therefore his ministry will carry out an amnesty programme to allow offenders to resolve their problems if they want to keep their licences.
During the programme, all fishing vessel licences will be recalled and renewed if licensees can demonstrate compliance with the conditions. No penalty will be imposed on offenders during the recall of the licences.
He said the programme will focus on nine different types of offences.
The first is to identify and address issues with licensees who own fishing vessel licences but do not own fishing vessels. Many licence holders only renew their licences solely for financial benefits or other undisclosed reasons.
The second category is vessels that have changed sizes after a licence was issued.
“The problem with this category is the non-standardisation of vessel sizes. Some licensees would upsize their vessels and then claim they were still adhering to their licence terms and conditions. We need to clearly spcify the size under each licence category,” he said.
Other issues include licences being issued while vessels are still being built, vessels being built in violation of the terms and conditions of the licences, vessels being utilised before licences are issued, and so on.