SAM and JARING urge stringent action on Rawa Sorong nets and illegal fishing gear in Malaysian waters

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Malaysian Coastal Fishermen’s Welfare and Education Network (JARING) urge the authorities to take stringent action on the illegal use of rawa sorong nets which violates the Fisheries Act 1984. SAM and JARING also object any attempt to license this destructive fishing gear.

The use of rawa sorong nets, also known as sodok nets among local fishers is not environmentally friendly. The 42-50 feet long bamboo poles, which are dragged along the coastal seabed or river, destroy cockle spats, fish fry, crabs, juvenile prawns and other marine life. It also damages other fishing gears.

SAM and JARING welcome the Department of Fisheries decision to refuse issuance of license to fishers who were lobbying for the licensing of rawa sorong nets in 2011. However, SAM and JARING find that there are weaknesses in terms of enforcement.  The use of these banned nets in Malaysian waters is still prevalent and widespread.

SAM and JARING’s observations during our surveys and information gathered from local fishermen show that this banned net is still being used. There are about 40 rawa sorong net operators in Perak who are mostly local entrepreneurs but have been employing foreign helps (illegal immigrants) from Myanmar and Thailand to carry out the operation. This figure represents only part of Perak but SAM and JARING believe that there are more such illegal operations in Perlis, Kedah, Johor and other states.

In view of this, SAM and JARING call for increased government enforcement to curb the use of these banned fishing gears. Integrated cooperation between the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Department of Fisheries is required for more stringent action to be taken against those who carry out these illegal activities. It is not enough just to issue compounds or warnings to those who flout the law.  The boat and banned fishing gears must be confiscated and destroyed.

Besides the rawa sorong nets, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry and relevant authorities should take serious action on the use of banned and destructive fishing gears in Malaysian waters such as Apollo nets in Kuala Kurau, siput retak seribu nets and other illegal trawl nets.  These nets are destructive to the marine ecosystem and jeopardises the sustainability of fisheries resources in Malaysia.

Press Statement, 2 March 2012