The Importance of Malaysia’s Marine Resources
Oceans are a significant natural resource and a major contributor to the global economy. Malaysia’s rich and biodiverse marine ecosystems provide various benefits ranging from health and food security, sustainable livelihoods, climate regulations, and so forth. Our fisheries sector benefits greatly from the marine ecosystem and biodiversity as it provides direct livelihood for over 100,000 fishermen and to many more who are engaged in related supporting services. Malaysia relies on seafood as a main source of animal protein thus contributing towards the health and food security needs of the nation.
Our Oceans are Under Threat
Unfortunately, Malaysian coastal marine resources are declining due to these threats:
- Too many fishing boats in our waters.
- Advanced fishing gears have been developed to catch more fish such as bottom trawlers; a massively damaging gear that sweep up every marine organism from the bottom of the oceans and leaves a trail of debris and pollution in its path.
Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing
- Destructive fishing, such as fish bombing and cyanide or poison fishing.
- In June 2017, it was reported that Malaysia loses an estimated amount of RM 6 billion annually, to illegal fishing by encroachment of foreign fishing vessels.
- Domestic fishing vessels also commit IUU by encroaching into other fishing zones; using illegal gears and violating fisheries’ laws.
Threats of overfishing and IUU cause major destruction to our marine ecosystems and biodiversity:
Fish populations and ocean habitats are severely threatened beyond their capacity to recover from the devastating impacts overfishing has caused.
Livelihoods are severely impacted. Fishermen need to put in more effort to catch fish; they need to go further out to sea and spend longer time for harvesting, and in return they are catching smaller and lesser fish.
Results from the last fish resource survey carried out by the Department of Fisheries (DoF) in 1997 indicate that demersal fish stocks have dropped by 90% since 1971. If these large-scale pressures continue, it would push fish stock to a point of no return.
High Demand is a Major Cause of Overfishing
We need to take our fishing practices for seafood production into serious consideration and be very mindful of our consumption practices. Overfishing occurs when trying to meet the increasing human demand for seafood. Malaysians depend highly on seafood to meet our daily protein needs with the current overfishing trend, a growing population will be facing protein deficiency.
The Department of Statistics Malaysia projects that by 2040, Malaysia’s population will be 41.5 million, compared to 28.6 million in 2010.
Between 1950s and 2015, we have also witnessed an increase of 600% in some fish prices.
In light of the growing population, increasing seafood demand, rising price of seafood and the pressure on our already threatened fish stock, food security is a looming issue for our growing Malaysian economy and natural ecosystems.