Let fishermen breathe – Sin Chew DailyHundreds of fishermen in Perak, Selangor and Penang had gone on strike to oppose the government's new regulations that claimed to hit the livelihood of fishermen.
Several strict regulations were recently introduced, including the nets should be within 3m-wide with a mesh size of 38mm, licence holders are required to be onboard when the ship is at sea and foreign crew member is prohibited.
These regulations are expected to directly affect the trawl fishing industry. Fishermen claimed that the new regulations would reduce catches and coupled with the rising costs and diesel prices, it would worsen the heavy burden of the fishing industry.
Under the Fisheries Act 1985, if fishermen do not comply with these regulations, the authorities have the right to confiscate their boats or fishing gear with their licence revoked. Some fishermen described it is a "death sentence" for the trawl fishing industry.
The country's fishing industry has become stagnant with declining fishery resources in surrounding waters. In addition, the overlap of deep sea fishing and shallow fishing ranges have led to a fierce competition and over-fishing possibility, resulting in the decline of fish resources and leaving the outlook less optimistic.
The government lacks a long-term fishing development policy and does not provide sufficient technical support, or assist the enterprises to restructure and transform, causing the deterioration of the industry. The development of the industry has been left stagnant for years and the fishing industry has gradually shifted to fish farming. The supply now relies greater on imported fish.
In the past, the fishing industry could still rely on sufficient diesel subsidies and cheap foreign labours to reduce the costs. Also, since the regulations were not implemented, the catches could be increased and the industry survived. The catches in those days could meet a large part of domestic demand.
With the surge of diesel prices, and the surge might continue, the new regulations could bring a great impact to the fishing industry, clouding its outlook.
The regulations indeed carry positive meanings originally. For instance, limiting the mesh sizes of fishing nets is meant to protect young fish and safeguard the catches of fishermen in shallow waters. However, implementing the regulations hastily amidst the plight of the fishing industry without providing appropriate protection facilities is very unfavourable to the affected fishermen.
Moreover, it is also going to affect domestic fish market. Fish prices will inevitably rise, adding another layer of stress on consumers.
It is necessary for the authorities to communicate with fishermen to understand their difficulties and study whether the regulations are too harsh, whether they meet the reality and whether they will greatly harm the fishermen. If the situation allows, the authorities should relax the regulations or give them tolerance period so that the affected fishermen will have time and space to make adjustments.
In the long run, the government must draw a long-term plan for the fishing industry, properly manage resources while providing assistance to fishermen, including technical upgrade support and management transformation packages to help the industry sustain. – mysinchew.com, November 5, 2013.