Sabah minister urges boycott of ‘bombed fish’

Equipment confiscated by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency believed to be used in fish bombing near Malundangan island in January 2017. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A Sabah minister has urged businesses and members of the public to boycott traders and wholesalers who sell fish caught using fish bombs, as part of efforts to curb the practice which came under scrutiny following the deaths of three divers off Semporna last week.

“When the buying stops, hopefully this form of fishing will stop too,” State Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong told FMT.

“By boycotting traders who sell bombed fish, we will be hitting them where it hurts.”

He urged the public to look out for signs that a fish has been caught using explosives, saying these are relatively easy to spot.

“Fish bombing shatters the bones and internal organs of the fish, so when you touch it, you will find that it is quite soft.

“This is the best way to tell because it’s unlikely that sellers will put out fish that were too close to the blast as they may have physical marks.”

Junz Wong.

Wong also called on enforcement agencies to beef up their efforts, saying the continued use of fish bombs has detrimental effects on the environment in addition to posing safety risks.

“Fish bombing is very loud, so it is difficult to do it without being noticed,” he said.

He added that the state government is pushing for stiffer laws to be used against fish bombers.

At the moment, those caught using fish bombs are only fined.

Wong said the state is pushing for fish bombs to be categorised as a type of firearm. This would mean that those caught in possession of such bombs would face the same punishment as those caught with unlawful possession of firearms.

Under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, those caught with unlawful possession of firearms face up to 14 years in jail and not less than six strokes of the rotan.

Yesterday, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) cited demand for fish caught using explosives as among the reasons for the continued practice in Sabah.

It is understood that fish caught using explosives are sold for much less in the market.

Sabah MMEA director Kamaruszaman Abu Hassan said syndicates are keen to meet this demand, cashing in on people’s desire to acquire food items at a lower price.