US tech to beat fish bombing

Pang (left)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will use an American technology called Shot Spotter to combat fish bombing which is a serious issue in the state.

Shot Spotter is a technology that detects gunshots. It was tested in Semporna in 2015 and was able to accurately locate the fish bomb explosions there.

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming said the technology would help detect the fish bombers and to enforce the law at hand.

He disclosed that a few test areas for the technology to detect fish bombing activities will be set up at Tun Mustapha Park in Kudat.

“I hope we can implement the technology soon. We are doing a lot of field testing now. The technology would deter them from doing it,” he said but lamented that Sabah’s long coastline and marine border make it difficult for the enforcement agencies to ensure that the laws are complied with.

“In any problem there is always a human face. Unless we resolve the key issues at hand which is the livelihood of fishermen, even of the fish mongers, this particular need, whatever enforcement, laws that you have…. we cannot be there 24/7 to ensure that the laws are abided with.

“It is very hard to enforce in the sense that we can prove through lab tests but we cannot actually prove who did it. However the number of bombed fish sold at some of the markets has reduced drastically,” he said after officiating at the Sabah Anti-Fish Bombing symposium here yesterday.

He reiterated that the key to resolving the issue at hand other than enforcement is to improve the livelihood of the people that is directly causing the problem.

This is because most of those who employ the destructive method to catch fish are doing it to put food on their tables and feed their families, Pang said.

“We have to understand that while there are a few of them who do it for monetary gains, there are some who fish bomb out of necessity,” he said.

“While the use of technology is very important, it is well for us to create awareness about fish bombing and the damage it causes on our economy, especially tourism and fishery; it doesn’t mean much to the fishermen.

“We need a holistic approach and the key word here is ‘Blue Economy’, so it is very important for us in our push to eliminate fish bombing that we have to take care of the stakeholders.

“We might be enjoying hundreds and millions from the tourism and fisheries industries, but to the man on the ground who has to feed his family everyday, whatever is discussed, if it doesn’t include them will mean nothing and will not be a success,” he told reporters after officiating at the Sabah Anti-Fish Bombing symposium here yesterday.

According to Pang, the target to stop fish bombing forwarded by the United Nations is the year 2020 and he expressed hope that the discussions in the symposium would include how to approach the problem in a holistic way and how to help ‘entice’ as well as involve those who are causing this problem to enjoy the fruits of a rich marine eco-system.

“In the two days we will be hearing a lot about technology, the use of technology to help our enforcement agencies to detect and combat fish bombing activities. Like all industries all over the world the use of technologies is very important.

“Given that our border is large and the areas the enforcement agencies have to cover is huge, it is almost physically impossible for us to monitor the activities and hence the importance of the use of technology.

“We are very fortunate to have high profile speakers from Oman, USA and Hong Kong who will share their experience and introduce some insights on the use of the technology that is available today and adapt them to our efforts to combat fish bombing,” he said.

To the question about fish bombing activities at the Sabah Parks islands, Pang said it was still happening but not as bad as in the past. The incidents are manageable, he added.

He disclosed that these fishermen are staying away from Sabah Parks but are still carrying out the activity in other reefs.

“One such reef that is totally beautiful and if we do not do something about it will be totally destroyed, is the reef along Ligitan. There have been fish bombing activities there. Is not under Sabah parks but I am hopeful that they will gazette this.

“The ministry is looking into it (and) even though Ligitan is a sensitive area, we need to take the first step (which is) acknowledging that this reef is beautiful (and) it is something that we need to protect for our future generations.

“By gazetting it under Sabah Parks, maybe extending Pulau Sipadan to include Pulau Ligitan, it would deter some from going there to do fish bombing,” he said.

On how fast would the enforcement agencies be able to respond to any fish bombing activity detected, Pang said the large sea area surrounding Sabah is hindering the fast response.

“That is a problem, to be there soon after the explosion. Even though the enforcement agencies double their logistics, it would be difficult to be in all places all the time. So the root cause is that we have to see to the needs of the people who are involved in the illegal activity,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Stop Fish Bombing Governing Board member Simon Christopher said  they were very excited to have Shot Spotter here because this would be an opportunity for Sabah to lead the way and show that the state was serious about stopping fish bombing.

“We will try by 2020, we will certainly try our best. We have the technology now and hopefully in the next two days, Sabah will come out with the commitment to overcome the issue,” he said.

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