Penang still needs to modernise fishermen despite reclamation not affecting catch

GEORGE TOWN: Penang needs to ensure that any assistance offered to fishermen must prioritise on modernising them amid reclamations at the south of the island, urged the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM).

The state’s LKIM chairman Muhammad Faiz Fadzil said the authority is aware of the need for reclamation which had so far not directly affected the catches by fishermen, but modernisation measures would enable fishermen to go out further at sea and sustain the industry.

“LKIM is aware of the needs of the Penang state government in implementing the Silicon Island reclamation project to ensure rapid progress in the state.

“It is estimated that RM120bil of investment has flowed into Penang over the past five years, which has brought various development spillovers to the growth of the economy and the prosperity of the people.

“In addition, Penang has recorded the highest economic growth in the country in 2021 at a rate of 6.8%.

“To ensure the continuation of this rapid development, a mega project that can stimulate the state’s economy needs to be developed such as the reclamation of Silicon Island,” he said in a statement on Friday (May 22).

However, Faiz said as reclamation would reduce the amount of fishing areas, fishermen would just need to go further.

“LKIM understands that the implementation of the Silicon Island reclamation project has reduced the fishing area for Zone A fishermen in Penang.

“The lack of catchment area does not affect the catch of fish in the sea as the fishermen of Zone A can go further into the deeper sea which promises more catch of fish.

“LKIM is confident that fishermen’s income can be improved to change their socioeconomic status if there is a concerted effort including by the state to implement a vessel modernisation agenda for fishermen affected by this project.

“Therefore, the state government needs to pay attention to this aspect to ensure that this agenda is achieved where any assistance that is to be offered to the fishermen of this state should prioritise this agenda.

“Fishing boats need to be enlarged, equipment needs to be modernised and fishing skills need to be improved through capital incentives and skills training.

“LKIM suggests that engagement sessions between the state and fishermen involved be enhanced so that a win-lose solution can be achieved for the interests of the fishermen and the state,” he added.

Faiz also acknowledged that there were still no scientific findings presented to show that the reclamation of Silicon Island had affected fisheries.

“Data in the months before and after the start of reclamation works on Silicon Island show that there is no connection or consistent relationship between the amount of shrimp caught and the reclamation works carried out.

“There is a fluctuating trend in the amount of shrimp caught in the project area through data collection at the LKIM fish declaration centers in Penang,” he said.

Citing examples, Faiz said the amount of shrimp caught after the start of the reclamation project even exceeded the amount before the project.

“In Dec last year, the shrimp catch remained high at over 4,000kg, exceeding the amount of shrimp landed before reclamation began.

“Therefore, based on the upward and downward trends observed in several declaration centers, it is clear that there is no consistent relationship or link between the amount of shrimp caught and the reclamation work carried out,” he said.