As fish stocks dip, deputy minister tells fishermen to take up aquaculture

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Sim Tze Tzin says seafood farming can overcome the problem of overfishing.

GEORGE TOWN: Fishermen have been advised to take up seafood farming as supplies are depleting because of overfishing.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin said migration to fish farming or aquaculture can stem overfishing in the long run.

Sim said fishermen in the country catch close to one million tonnes of seafood yearly, and a recent assessment showed that fisheries resources have dropped by 4% on the west and east coasts of the peninsula.

“Malaysia is the 16th largest in captured fisheries, at 1.47 million tonnes worth RM10.8 billion. We are the sixth highest in Asean.

“The sustainable thing to do is to move away from captured fisheries towards aquaculture,” he said at the opening of the World Seafood Congress 2019 here today.

A fisheries department report had said recently that overfishing is likely factored by Malaysians’ appetite for fish. Malaysians are said to be one of the largest consumers of fish in the world, at 57kg per person each year.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has forecast total seafood depletion in the world by 2048. However, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has predicted a 17% increase in fish production by 2025.

Sim said Malaysia’s aquaculture industry is profitable, producing 427,022 tonnes of seafood worth RM3.04 billion a year, and standing 15th in the world and sixth in Asean.

He said the aquaculture industry includes fresh and processed fish (102,596 tonnes of freshwater fish worth RM728 million, and 21,460 tonnes of marine fish and prawns worth RM2.26 million), seaweed products (202,965 tonnes worth RM44.7 million) and ornamental fish (281 million pieces worth RM283 million).

He said the state governments can help by giving fishermen temporary occupation licences (TOLs) to kickstart their aquaculture projects.

Sim said Penang is one of the states with a 50:50 ratio of sea fishing and aquaculture, but other states are heavily skewed towards sea fishing.

He said Penang has more than half of the market share in the RM3 billion aquaculture industry. Its main commodity is the marine finfish, comprising seabass, grouper and snapper. Overall, Penang produced 47,742 tonnes valued at RM1.67 billion last year.

“The tail end of the Lekima typhoon has, however, caused losses of over RM15 million in damage nationwide,” he said.

Sim said that besides giving aid to fishermen, state governments must preserve mangrove forests to allow juvenile fishes to thrive.

He said more sea or marine parks should also be set up to prevent fishing.

Besides aquaculture, he said fishermen should consider going to the Indian Ocean to capture tuna, as Malaysia is allowed to fish for tuna under the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).

“Currently, Penang and Langkawi have been approved to land tuna. I feel the fishermen should also take the opportunity to do so,” he said.