Dr Rundi: Ministry preparing cabinet paper to approve establishing Sarawak’s own fisheries dept


Dr Rundi poses with his ministerial winding-up speech.

KUCHING (May 14): The Ministry of Food Industry, Commodities and Regional Development is preparing the Cabinet Paper for approval to establish the Department of Fisheries Sarawak, said its minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.

He said as such, his ministry through the Department of Agriculture Sarawak is actively engaging with relevant authorities such as the State Attorney-General’s Chambers, Department of Veterinary Services Sarawak and Department of Marine Fisheries Sarawak to deliberate the proposal to amend the State Fisheries Ordinance 2003.

He explained that in view of the overlapping of roles and function among different agencies of similar importance due to the source authority and jurisdiction, this has created grey areas in legislation – which needs to be clarified to avoid confusion and delays in enforcing rules and regulations.

“To date, the drafting of the new Ordinance is at the finalising stage and my ministry will hold engagement with relevant agencies to harmonise and streamline the drafted Ordinance with other existing Acts and Ordinances,” he said in his ministerial winding up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly here today.

Dr Rundi also revealed that Sarawak has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in Malaysia, with a total area of 172,041 kilometres square, and this EEZ often contains rich marine biodiversity offering vast potential for fisheries development and increasing export earnings.

He added Sarawak is an important fishing state with a long coastline within Malaysia, and offers immense potential for deep-sea fishing due to existing infrastructure, abundant marine resources, limited competition and the country’s status as a net seafood importer.

However, he noted value-adding and downstream activities are currently underdeveloped, which presents an opportunity for expansion, job creation and export growth.

Among the challenges faced in operating deep sea fishing vessels are high operating costs in terms of maintenance and fuel; lack of interest among the locals to be engaged as deep-sea fishing crew; encroachment by foreign fishing vessels; and lack of high-end value-added activities of fishing produce.

“Currently, the quota for deep sea fishing licences for Sarawak is set at 560 units for various types of commercial fishing equipment. To date, there are 35 licensed deep-sea vessels operating in Sarawak,” he said.

He also informed the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) has ventured into deep sea fishing since 2023 with the aim to operate 13 vessels by the end of this year with a targeted catch of 200 metric tonnes per month valued at RM1 million.

“SEDC has also embarked into downstream activities like surimi and fishmeal processing as well as value-adding activities, thereby enhancing export potential and creating more than 1,500 job opportunities,” he added.