Penang Coastal Fishers Forced to Live in Debt: Trawler Vessels still Encroach Coastal Fishing Zone

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) urges the Maritime Enforcement Agency of Malaysia to take more effective action to control the encroachment of trawler vessels in the coastal fishing zone in the state of Penang.

CAP’s survey found that the daily earnings of more than 2,000 coastal fishers based in 10 landings in the South-West District have been threatened. The fishers are based in Pulau Betong, Kuala Jalan Baru, Sungai Burung, Gertak Sanggul, Teluk Kumbar, Teluk Tempoyak, Sungai Batu, Permatang Damar Laut, Permatang Tepi Laut and Batu Maung.

CAP understands that the trawlers based in Batu Maung frequently encroach into the   coastal fishers’ zone at night, operating 1 or 2 nautical miles from the shoreline.

The operations of the trawler vessels not only threatens fisheries resources but also kills juvenile fishes; damages the sea-bed and coastal area; collides and damages fishing nets belonging to coastal fishers here.

A fisherman, Idris Ishak, 62, said that besides a decrease in daily income from RM100.00 to RM15.00 due to trawl operations, some fishers suffer more losses when their nets are damaged, hit by trawler vessels.

He informed that many coastal fishers who are afflicted by this problem are forced into debt to purchase new nets to continue fishing so that they can support their family.

A woman fisher, Fatimah Abdullah, 51, said that because of the trawler vessels, she had to pawn her jewelleries as there was not enough money to support her school-going children. “Going out to sea, at times we get little catch, at times we return empty-handed” she laments.

She is disappointed that although trawling seriously affects their lives and livelihood, the authorities have not acted effectively to resolve the problem.

Another fisherman, Foo Kok Keong, 57, claims that he suffered losses amounting to RM1, 300.00 because his net was struck by a trawler vessel but the vessel operator only paid compensation of RM600.00.

Kok Keong who has three children is worried about his family’s future because he has to face dwindling fish catch and very little income daily.

Kok Keong hopes that the Maritime Enforcement Agency and the government will pay serious attention to the problem caused by trawling and take stringent action on the trawler vessels that encroach into coastal fishers’ zone.

CAP is also aggrieved and concerned about the encroachment of trawler vessels in Penang coastal fishing zone. Although CAP and affected fishers have repeatedly made calls and protested over the encroachment, the situation has not changed. In fact the problem has become worse.

Weak enforcement of the Fisheries Act 1985 has resulted in trawler vessels operating indiscriminately and threats to fisheries resources and coastal fishermen are still ongoing.

CAP believes that if the situation is not addressed immediately, it will not only adversely affect the livelihood of coastal fishermen but fishery resources in the waters of this state would probably become extinct in another 10 years.

CAP learned that the trawler vessels catch juvenile fishes and fish fries as these can be sold as trash fish and fish meal for aquaculture projects.

In view of the above, CAP urges the government to ban the use of trawler vessels, not only in Penang but also the whole country, so that our fishery resources will not be depleted and our population will get sufficient food supply in the future.

Media Statement, 19 September 2013