MAFI: National Fisheries Resources Sustainable

The Department of Fisheries (DOF) announced that the state of national fisheries industry is doing well despite a recent report by local media.

Following various control measures and rehabilitation of fishery resources implemented throughout the country since 2016, the trend of fish landings is showing signs of recovery, the DOF said.

Amendments to the Fisheries Act 1985 which were made in 2019 also helped the Department to better manage resources and control IUU Fishing (Illegal, unreported and unregulated) activities. Enforcement of the Fisheries Act 1985 is not limited to the encroachment of foreign vessels but also applies to local fishing vessels. Common offenses include the use of prohibited equipment, fishing without a license and encroachments on fishing zone areas.

The department is taking stern action against local vessels that do not comply with the rules and conditions of the license. To date, the Department has managed to reduce the number of fishing vessels from 56,211 in 2015 to 48,826 in 2020.

DOF has also implemented the rezoning of fishing areas in the states on the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, namely in Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Perlis as an action to rehabilitate waters that have suffered from declining resources. DOF is also targeting the elimination of trawls in Zone B (5-12 nm) throughout the country for the survival of the fisheries sector, especially local fishermen.

As a result of these recovery measures, Zone A (0-5 nm) coastal zone fish landings on the west coast of the peninsula have shown a positive increase although the number of vessels in operation has decreased. Zone C (12-30 nm) fish landings recorded a decline as many vessels were unable to operate due to dependence on foreign workers where the entry of foreign workers at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak period was stalled.

Meanwhile, marine parks are expected to increase with close cooperation of State Governments as additional  islands will be gazetted as marine parks this year. Furthermore, artificial reefs will  also continue to be anchored throughout the country. So far, since 2017, a total of 1,606 units of artificial reefs at more than RM 27 million have been anchored nationwide.

In terms of ocean borders and area regulations, the department acknowledged that there have been instances of Malaysian fishermen being detained by Indonesian authorities in areas that were said to overlap. Therefore, a special forum has been established to discuss the matter through a Memorandum of Understanding between Indonesia and Malaysia ‘In Respect of The Common Guidelines Concerning Treatment of Fishermen by Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies of Malaysia and the Republic of Indonesia’.

This MoU is a form of understanding between both countries on the treatment and management of fishing vessels of the two countries in the waters that are said to overlap. Fishermen are advised to always bring GPS equipment so that the current position can be ascertained, especially fishermen in Zone A, under the coastal category.

The Vessel Modernization and Equipment Mechanization Program for Zone A and Zone B vessels are also being actively implemented. Under the 2021 Budget via the Food Security Fund, the Government allocated RM150 million to be channelled to Agrobank with interest rates as low as 3%. The main purpose of this program is to reduce resource stress in Zone A and Zone B as well as to increase the competitiveness of the fishing industry through more efficient and resource -friendly modern equipment. It is hoped that a more comfortable and safer workspace and rest area will attract more local workers to enter the country’s catch fishing industry.

Resource control and improvement measures to manage sustainability of our fisheries industry will not be successful without awareness and support of both fishermen, policy makers and the public. The contribution of this sector to the economic development and food supply of the country cannot be denied as Malaysia is blessed with sustainable fisheries resources, despite the fact that extinction of fish in our oceans can and has occurred around the world.

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