GEORGE TOWN: A group of fishermen in Tanjung Tokong, a cape north of Gurney Drive, today voiced their support for their fellow fishermen in the south fighting against the planned three-island reclamation project.
These islands, covering 1821ha, are set to be reclaimed to pay for the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) which involves roads and light-rail transit (LRT).
The group, representing some 400 fishermen in Tanjung Tokong, today warned their fellow fishermen down south that no money can replace their catch that would definitely dwindle after the reclamation starts.
Tanjung Bungah fishermen’s community unit chief Ismail Din, 74, said he could relate to the situation faced by these 800 southern fishermen.
He said when the Seri Tanjung Pinang (STP) reclamation works near their traditional fishing grounds began in 2006, their catch dropped by 20%.
“Today, the catch is down more than 60%. We are coastal fishermen and cannot afford to go to the deep sea to fish.
“Not only do we not have the right boats or engines, or even cool boxes, most of us are above 60. We can’t bear to go to the deep sea any more.
“So why are you talking about compensation and new boats, when in reality, it will be more difficult for us to go out to the sea?
“And what can RM15,000 in compensation get you in the long run? How long will that last you?” he asked at a press conference held by the Tanjung Tokong beach today.
Fisherwoman Syahifah Hawa Zamzuri, 30, said she and her fellow fishermen at the Tanjung Bungah area had experienced firsthand how the previous STP reclamation in their waters had left them frustrated with a poor catch and empty promises.
She said a proper jetty, to be shared by the Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah fishermen, was supposed to have been built for them back then, but nothing had been done until today.
“Take a look at this place. All that remains is a signboard that says it was supposed to be built but until today, there is nothing,” she said.
Tanjung Bungah fishermen community committee member Ronald Khoo said the state should look into the plight of the fishermen staying along the coast of Tanjung Bungah and Tanjung Tokong before going ahead with another reclamation project.
He said many fishermen were affected by the STP reclamation.
The STP reclamation project encompasses two phases and is off the waters of Tanjung Tokong. The first phase (STP1) of the reclamation, comprising 97ha, was completed in 2006. Reclamation of 308ha, under the second phase (STP2), which commenced in 2016, is still under way.
In an immediate comment, STP’s proponents, Tanjung Pinang Development Sdn Bhd (TPD), said it had followed all laws pertaining to the reclamation and in compensating the affected fishermen.
TPD said it had gone beyond what it was required to do by engaging the fishing community around the reclamation site, giving the 152 fishermen ex-gratia payouts.
“This ex-gratia payment and the number of eligible fishermen were determined by state authorities and the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM).
“As a proactive safety measure, we have also been constantly updating the fishermen through our SMS alert protocol on ongoing reclamation activities.
“The fishing community has, on the whole, also accepted contributions such as TPD’s school assistance programme, support for festive celebrations, open house functions and others,” it said.