Fishermen, NGO warn of costlier fish due to Penang reclamation

By Opalyn Mok

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 5 — Ongoing and upcoming land reclamation projects in Penang are threatening the catches of over 4,000 coastal fishermen, some of whom said this could lead to more expensive seafood and fewer varieties.

One fisherman claimed the reclamation project off Batu Uban near Queensbay Mall has cut his income by more than half.

“We used to be able to get good hauls and net schools of fishes such as white pomfret here, but now, we can barely get anything,” said Mohd Maidin Abd Hamid.

The 63-year-old who has been a coastal fisherman for over 35 years said once earned around RM1,600 monthly, but said this has not been the case since the reclamation.

“Now, I can barely get RM600 each month,” he said.

He also claimed the land reclamation works did not adhere to proper safety precautions such as illuminating the buoys, claiming to have hit one in the darkness.

Mohd Maidin (second from left) and SAM members hold up placards in protest of land reclamation works in Penang.

He also claimed his boat and nets had been entangled with the buoy, forcing him to call the naval patrol for help.

“I had to cut loose my fishing nets, all 10 of it and the nets were left there,” he said in a press conference with Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) today.

He estimated his losses to be RM2,500 from the incident, not including his loss of income since he lost his nets.

SAM research officer S. Mageswari said land reclamation not only hurt fishermen’s livelihood, but also consumers.

“With fewer fishes locally, this means prices of fishes will go up and it will become very expensive for consumers to eat fish,” she said.

She said SAM has consistently against land reclamation projects that damage the environment.

“We don’t only protest against such projects in Penang, we also protested against the land reclamation works in Kedah,” she said.

An ongoing land reclamation project off the coast of Batu Uban across from Queensbay Mall.

She also said the proposed Penang South Reclamation at the southern coast of Penang Island will cause even worse environmental damage and affect all fishermen in the area.

“Marine water pollution and ever decreasing fishing zones due to reclamation at the coastal area have caused dwindling fisheries resources and so catches by fishermen have deteriorated to 70 per cent of their daily income,” she added.

SAM called on the state government to immediately cancel its proposed reclamation projects in the state to protect the environment and the fishermen’s livelihood.