Don’t Delay Anymore Ban Trawl Nets to Save Fisheries Resources

1. Fisheries resources in Malaysia is now in the verge of severe devastation. SAM and JARING are raising our concerns about the deterioration of fishery resources because of massive destruction to marine ecosystems as well as decline in certain species of fish such as pomfret, grouper and snapper that are becoming increasingly scarce. Research findings showed that the decline in population and endangered species are of fish with high commercial value.

2. The National Agro-Food Policy (2011-2020) targets 50% of the country’s fishery will be sourced from aquaculture and only 50% from wild catch. This policy needs to be reviewed as SAM and JARING reckon the aquaculture industry is one of the factors that undermine fishery resources. This policy will encourage destruction of mangrove, coastal and riverine areas for aquaculture development. SAM and JARING believe and studies show that 70% of marine resources use mangrove forests as nurseries and breeding grounds. Therefore, this area should be fully protected.

3. The aquaculture industry brings about high demand for trash fish. This industry has encouraged  trawlers to catch trash fish to serve as feed for cultured fish / aquaculture. Trash fish is fish that has no or less commercial value and is captured and processed as food for the aquaculture industry.

4. Fisheries statistics indicate that 267,892 metric tonnes (mt) or 267,892,000 kilograms (kg) of trash fish was landed in Malaysia in 2017 and over a 5-year period from 2013 to 2017 a total of 1,317,828mt of trash fish were landed. Based on fisheries statistics in 2017, 30% of trawl catches are trash fish (216,623mt from the total trawl catch of 711,525mt).

5. From monitoring by SAM and JARING we find that 1kg of fish is equivalent to at least 92 juvenile fish. If this fish is left uncaught to reach its mature size, 1kg of juvenile fish will be at least 12kg of adult-sized fish. Based on this calculation, it is estimated that in 2017 trash fish catch would have destroyed 3,214,704,000 kg (3,214,704 mt) of adult fish with a value of  RM25,717,632,000 (RM25.72 billion)(refer to Appendix 1). This amount is more than enough to meet the demand of national protein needs. Based on this data, it is not possible that fisheries resources will be extinct by 2048 as reported  by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

6. SAM and JARING view that trawler nets and nets that destroy resources such as the Apollo nets (modified kenka 2 bot), pukat harimau, rawa sorong and other nets that destroy fisheries resources should not be subsidized or given incentives by the government either in the form of fuel or weight of fish landed (RM0.10/kg). These nets have damaged the fishery resources and should be subject to severe fines for damaging the country’s food resources.

7. The zone system (refer to Appendix 2) which has been used for a long time to protect fisheries resources seems to be unsuccessful as enforcement agencies failed to play their role in protecting the resources. Conflicts between zone A fishermen and trawlers are never ending. Trawlers  often encroach into zone A (below 5/8 nautical miles) as we believe they target trash fish.

8. For example pukat kenka 2 boat modified to Apollo nets (refer to Appendix 3) violate the Fisheries Act 1985. Rawa sorong nets that fish in the estuaries are blatantly destroying fish habitat in the coastal area. This clearly shows that fishery-related agencies are not stringently protecting fishery resources. Even the use of fishing gears that are damaging to fishery resources are increasing and uncontrollable.

9. We believe that fisheries resources will recover if trawlers and fishing gears that destroy fishery resources are eliminated and stringent and effective enforcement measures are taken. Marine resources will be rejuvenated with better and more breeding.

10. In view of the above, SAM and JARING urge for serious emphasis given to integrated fisheries management that takes into account the close links between ecosystems and marine resources. Sustainability of resources and serious deterioration of biomass needs to be addressed wisely. In addition, all destructive coastal development should take into account the impact on marine ecosystems and canceled immediately. The use of fishing gears that destroy the ocean floor should not be allowed at all.

11. SAM and JARING also urge the government not to yield to pressure from any parties to withdraw the ban on trawling by 2020. SAM and JARING have received information on the efforts being made to extend the date of ban on trawling. The government should not submit to the trawlers because a long period has been granted for them to phase out trawling i.e., from 2016.

1 November 2018, Joint Media Statement