Artificial reefs to prevent illegal fishing

KOTA KINABALU: Eighteen units of artificial reef weighing seven tons each were dropped off Sepanggar island near here yesterday to prevent indiscriminate fishing by trawlers.

Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin said indiscriminate fishing by either bombing or poisoning had depleted marine life.

He said these illegal activities that led to over fishing had not only affected the livelihood of traditional fishermen but also the eco-system.

According to him, the artificial reefs will offer marine life a chance to renew and regenerate themselves whilst allowing the rehabilitation of marine habitats.

“One hundred and thirty-six fishermen of Sepanggar island and 140 fishermen from Kampung Jaya at Pulau Gaya will benefit from the artificial reefs,” he said.

Yahya also stressed that the artificial reef project is a government strategy to rehabilitate marine life and the eco-system in several areas around Sabah.

According to him, the artificial reefs at Sepanggar island, were made of cement that will last for a least half a century.     He said that they are suitable as fish habitats and act as deterrents to trawlers to trawl near the seashore.

“It is therefore imperative that the artificial reefs are monitored so that unscrupulous individuals will not destroy them either by bombing or using other illegal means,” he stressed.

“The sea tagal system was introduced in 2009. The areas which opt for the system include Sipitang, Beaufort, Putatan, Kuala Penyu, Tuaran, Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Pitas, Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau,” Yahya said, adding that the artificial reefs off Sepanggar Island would also be taken care of under the system.

Under the system, line fishing is the only form of fishing allowed while net and traps are prohibited and that small fish should be released to ensure the sustainability of the artificial reefs.

To ensure that the regulations are adhered to, the enforcement unit of the Fisheries Department, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Marine Police will work hand in hand to monitor the situation and to enforce those regulations.

Commenting on the artificial reefs, Yahya said RM200,000 had been channeled into the project in Kota Kinabalu and he hoped that more funds could be made available for this project in Sabah under the 10th Malaysia Plan.

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