Marine fish resources depletes at 15% per decade

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KOTA KINABALU: Overfishing is a major threat to Sabah’s fishing industry with a depletion of the State’s marine fish resources at a worrying rate of about 15 per cent every 10 years.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin when highlighting this, said the use of destructive methods such fish bombs and poison contributed to the diminishing coastal fish population.

“In Sabah, the volume of salt water fish landed in 1999 was 207,213 tons but this figure has steadily decreased to just 174,579 tons in 2010. This calls for awareness and action from everyone, especially the fishermen’s community, to start practising sustainable approach,” he said.

Speaking at the launching of the artificial reef project for Petagas, Lok Kawi and Putatan areas yesterday, Yahya said various programmes are being taken by the government to restore marine fish resources in Sabah and the success depended on the cooperation and support from the fishing community.

Statistics from the Fisheries Department Malaysia also showed that marine fish yield has decreased from 2.56 tons per square kilometer (sq km) in 1971 to 0.21 tons per sq km in 2007.

Yahya, who is also Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry, said the setting up artificial reefs at strategic locations are among measures taken by the Fisheries Department to replenish the State’s fish stock.

He noted that the department has successfully created a number of artificial reefs in 13 districts since 2009, including in Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran, Beaufort, Kudat, Sandakan and Tawau with a cost of over RM4 million.

This year, he added, the State Government has allocated RM400,000 for creating artificial reefs in the waters off Putatan alone.

“I hope this project will restore the fish population in this area and help improve the income of the local fishermen. I would like to urge all the community here to give their cooperation towards protecting the artificial reefs, which do not only provide a breeding ground for the fish but also protect them from trawlers.

“I also hope the relevant agencies, including the marine police and the Maritime Enforcement Agency will help keep an eye on these reefs to ensure they are not damaged by irresposible individuals who may want to take advantage of the growing fish population or use destructive fishing methods to gain short-term benefit,” he said.

Yahya noted there were about 20,000 registered fishermen in the Putatan district, including 382 traditional fishermen from 15 villages.