CAP calls for bans on seafood exports and destructive fishing methods.
Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) issued this warning today and called on the government to ban the export of seafood as well as deep sea fishing and other destructive fishing methods.
“Time is running out for marine lives,” said CAP president SM Mohamed Idris, speaking at a press conference to mark World Ocean Day.
He also urged authorities to ban fishing during the spawning periods of marine animals and to put a stop to aquaculture activities and the clearing of coastal mangrove forests.
Marine fishes supply a major source of protein to the world and the seafood industry is worth more than US$85 billion a year.
Idris said the main causes of decline in fishery stocks were overfishing, trawling in fish breeding and nursery grounds and the use of inappropriate harvesting technologies. Other causes, he added, were the dumping of toxic wastes and pollutants into the sea, the destruction of coastal mangroves and wetlands, aquaculture and climate change.
“The level of exploitation has been too high for many stocks, and some varieties of marine lives have disappeared or are facing extinction,” he said.
Quoting research done by an international team of scientists, he said there would not be any fish or other forms of seafood left in the world in 26 years’ time—or by 2048. In Malaysia, the end is fast approaching, he added.
A recent CAP study carried out through random interviews with fishermen in Penang, Kedah and Perlis found that over 60 marine species had disappeared from local waters.
“A fishery is considered to have collapsed if catches fall to 10% of historic highs,” Idris said.
Even more worrying, Idris said, was that Malaysian authorities were not seeing the urgency of the situation and had not taken any concerted effort to address the issue.
He said Malaysian fisheries policy encouraged deep-sea fishing without considering the risks, including its potential to decimate fish stocks.
He also criticised modern industrial fishing, describing it as “incredibly wasteful and destructive”.
The current national policy has a focus on aquaculture, which is seen as a way of offsetting the depletion of marine resources while sustaining high yields.
But the rapidly growing industry causes massive destruction of mangroves and coastal habitats. Ironically, these are the spawning areas. “Aquaculture is thus counter-productive,” Idris said.
Official statistics show that mangrove areas in Peninsular Malaysia have declined due to development activities, including aquaculture.
Aquaculture is being promoted mainly to generate export revenues.
The fishing industry continues with destructive fishing practices due to the absence of specific laws against them and as well as poor enforcement of existing laws.
CAP wants the government to ban jaring tangan kurau, pukat siput retak seribu, pukat kisa, pukat cekam and pukat rawa sorong.
New fishing methods such as trawling scoop up anything and everything, causing the destruction and disappearance of thousands of species and millions of marine creatures.
“These fishing gear destroy the small fish and shrimps as well as the seabed,” Idris said.
Since 2003, the country’s annual total fish landings have been exceeding the maximum sustainable yield, which is 900,000 tonnes.
“As a result, several species of local fishes have disappeared,” said Idris.
Lungs of our planet
Moreover, marine life habitats such as mangroves, sea grass beds and coral reefs, which are sanctuaries for the reproduction and regeneration of marine life such as fish, prawns and crabs, have been destroyed.
“Wild fish regenerate at limits determined by nature and these limits have been ignored in the quest for greater and greater catches,” Idris said.
He called on the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry to stop promoting aquaculture and to conduct conservation programmes to protect and rehabilitate mangrove forests, coral reefs and other fish spawning grounds.
Idris said the authorities should conserve and regenerate all marine species that were under the threat of extinction.
“The ocean is the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe,” he said. “It is also a major source of food and medicines, and it forms a critical part of the biosphere.”