by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, on Saturday, 25th July 1981:
DAP calls on Minister of Agriculture, Datuk Haji Abdul Manan bin Haji Othman, to defer the enforcement of the five-mine limit for trawler fishermen for three months until a comprehensive and satisfactory solution to resolve the problems of the trawler fishermen are worked out
Accompanied by the DAP MP for Bruas, Sdr. Ting Chek Ming , and representatives of si fishermen from Pantai Remis and Bagan Pancut, I met the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Tan Sri Arshad Ayub, the Deputy SG, the Director of Fisheries, and other officials at Wisma Tani for an hour this morning over the problems faced by the trawler fishermen in Pantai Remis and the Dindings area because of the new Fisheries Regulations.
The new Fisheries Regulations prohibit trawler fishing boats of 4- tons and below from fishing within five miles of the shore, as compared to three miles previously, and prohibits the use of nets whose mesh size is less than 1.5 inches.
I referred to the clarification by the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday that the three-month deferment of the enforcement of the Fisheries Regulations announced by the Minister of Agriculture, Datuk Haji Abdul Manan bin Haji Othman, on Thursday, referred only to the 1.5-inch mesh net, and not to the prohibition of trawler fishing within five miles of shore.
Both Sdr. Ting and I urged the Minister of Agriculture to allow the trawler fishermen, who are mostly of 10 to 12 tons boats, to continue to fish as previously beyond the three-mile limit, until a comprehensive solution could be found to resolve the problems of the trawler fishermen created by the Regulations.
The present trawler fishermen were encouraged by the Fisheries Department to convert from traditional fishing methods to trawler fishermen are left high and dry, and literally placed between “the devil and the deep blue sea.”
This is because their boats and gear would be too uneconomic for use for traditional fishing inshore, and would be too small and inadequate for deep-sea trawling, or even for five=mile and beyond trawling.
As the government had in the first instance encouraged them to convert to trawling, the government has a moral duty and obligation to them to ensure that they are not placed in apposition where they suffer great financial losses and hardships, as many of them are still in the process of trying to complete their payments for their trawler boas and gears. Furthermore, the expected life span of such trawler boats are about 8 to 10 years, and to abandon them now, as would be the case under the Regulations, would mean a total loss of their investments.
We stressed that a three-month extension in the deferment of the enforcement of the Regulations would end very quickly, and the whole problem of the trawler fishermen under the new Regulations would resurface.
Sdr. Ting and I urged on the Ministry of Agriculture that the Ministry should work out a comprehensive scheme whereby the trawler fishermen’s interests cold be protected, either in terms of allowing them to continue to fish beyond the three-mile limit with 1-inch mesh net, or the government should provide a definitive scheme whereby trawler fishermen who wish to convert to larger trawler fishing vessels for fishing in the deep sea would get special government financial assistance and incentives which are spelled out In detail; or the government help to seek alternative employment for the fishermen affected by resettling them on land schemes or aquaculture (fish culture) schemes.
At the meeting, Sdr. Ting argued powerfully against the 1½inch mesh size net. He said that normally trawling fishing goes on for three or four hours, before the mesh trawl net is pulled up, the fishing boat slows down or stops, and is tossed I about in the sea, the mesh size net of 1½ inches open up. When this the mesh size net of 1½ inches opens up, the prawns (dead or alive or dying) will either fall put or escape through the net.
Even the big prawns, dead or alive of dying, will either fall out or escape through the mesh size of 1½ inches, let alone the smaller and medium size prawns.
Sdr. Ting said tat at present, the smaller prawns (commonly called “yellow prawns “) and other small prawns make up half of the total catch by weight using 1 inch mesh size. About 350 yellow prawns weigh one kati. These prawns will not grow bigger, and if 1½ inch mesh size is used, the fishermen would have very little catch left. In any event, the prawns of whatever size and species which have been caught in the 1½ inch mesh trawl net, and escaped when pulled up, would not survive, for they had been in the net for 3 or 4 hours, which will represent a waste.
As there are over 1,000 trawler boats in Pantai Remis and Dingdings area alone, affecting large number of people’s livelihood, we urged the Ministry of Agriculture to suspend the operation of the new Regulations completely, and to work out a comprehensive scheme½ to solve the trawler’s fishermen’s problems, even if the suspension of the Regulations take one or two years.
The Secretary-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Tan Sri Arshad Ayub, said the Ministry would consider the representations put forward on behalf of he trawler fishermen at the meeting.
In the interest of the trawler fishermen’s livelihood, I would call on the Minister of Agriculture, Datuk Haji Abdul Manan bin Haji Othman, to immediately defer the enforcement of the five-mile limit for trawler fishermen for three months in keeping with the deferment with regard to the 1½ inch mesh net, and to work out a long-term and comprehensive solution of the problems of the trawler fishermen.