Letter to Editor: Ban of Trawlers in Zone B Will Positively Impact the Protection and Recovery of Our Marine Resources

With reference to the article entitled ‘Fishing industry warns of decline in fresh seafood’ published in The Star on 23 June 2015, WWF-Malaysia reaffirms support towards the ban of trawlers in Zone B.

The demersal fish stock in Malaysia has already declined by more than 90% since 1960s, based on a survey by the Department of Fisheries. If we continue with business as usual in our fishing practices, we may experience a collapse in the fishing industry.

WWF-Malaysia strongly believes that the current use of trawl nets, without the critically required and affirmative action to ban trawling in Zone B by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (MOA), will empty our seas by 2048. Trawling is also the highest contributor to trash fish landing, where trash fish comprising juvenile or low commercial value fishes end up as low cost feeds in aquaculture farms.

We encourage the fishing industry to move towards sustainable seafood production, of wild capture and farmed sources. We believe that sustainable marine and aquaculture practices will benefit everybody in the long run. Highlighting the importance of aquaculture as an economic value to the country, the annual fisheries statistics 2013 show a total of 26,802 aqua culturists for the year, producing 260,774 tonnes (14.91% of total fisheries production) of fish valued at RM 2, 419.28 million.

WWF-Malaysia also strongly encourages Malaysians to consume and produce in a sustainable manner to ensure that current and future generations have equitable access to volume and diversity in seafood.

The trawler ban will support the recovery and long-term sustainability of our marine resources.
The Malaysian fisheries can consider alternative fishing gears that are cost-effective and more environmentally friendly such as purse seine method, fish traps, long lines, and bigger mesh sizes to ensure that only adult fishes are caught. TED (Turtle Excluding Device), which is fitted to nets to allow turtles to escape immediately after they are captured is highly recommended. However, it is also crucial that in reopening purse seine licencing, fishing capacity is controlled by appropriately coordinating the exit of trawlers and the entry of Purse Seiners, and continue to monitor our fish stock to ensure fishing capacity and fish catch are within sustainable level.

WWF-Malaysia calls for the review of fisheries subsidies so that such perverse subsidies may be redirected to recover depleting fish stocks, and to address livelihoods for fishermen. Alternative livelihoods that are sustainable and transition programmes for fishermen should be developed to address the issue of reduced fish catch from the trawler ban.

In light of the upcoming budget allocation preparations for 2016, it is important that allocation is made to promote a sustainable fisheries industry, promote the rehabilitation and conservation of marine ecosystems, improve research and development especially for sustainable aquaculture, and develop and implement effective transition and livelihood programmes for fishermen.

WWF-Malaysia continues to support this responsible step to impose a ban on trawling in Zone B. It is our desire to see continuous support from the Government towards a truly sustainable fisheries industry in Malaysia. We also call upon Malaysians to support sustainable seafood production and consumption.

Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma
Executive Director/CEO

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