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Wednesday January 13, 2010

Inland fishery development in Sabah

KOTA MARUDU: Sabah has good potential in developing inland fishery, especially in rearing and exporting ikan kelah (masheer fish), known locally as ikan pelian.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said this native inland river fish was as tasty as the ikan empurau of Sarawak that fetched between RM600 and RM700 per kg in restaurants.

Dr Ongkili said the ikan kelah business could boom in Sabah with wider practice of the tagal system where rivers were opened for fishing for a specific period once a year and closed the rest of the time to allow the fish to mature.

Breeding project: Ongkili (second from left) looking at an outdoor pond where the ikan kelah is reared at Kampung Tangkol in Kota Marudu.

Tagal is practised at 379 rivers in Sabah, of which 19 are in Kota Marudu.

There was a huge market in peninsular Malaysia, Hong Kong and China for ikan kelah, which was a high-value fish, added Dr Ongkili.

His ministry has commenced a technology transfer programme through its agency, Technology Park Malaysia, for the fertilisation, breeding and stocking of the fish to enrich the community here.

The Technology Application Programme Mosti@Community initiative is being implemented at a pilot project in Kampung Tangkol here whereby those who practise the tagal system are taught how to produce fish fry from mature stock and manage the maturing process through water control and indigenous feed.

Once the RM300,000 pilot project proved successful, eight more would be carried out, Dr Ongkili said.

Good food: A view of the ikan kelah.

The centre, opened about six months ago as a training site for tagal members, has facilities such as indoor and outdoor ponds.

The goal is to produce fish for market, and for districts practising the tagal system to restock rivers through the Fishery Department.

During a visit to the centre, Dr Ongkili said it had successfully reared fish fry to mature stock.

He said the project’s success could serve as a model for other districts, especially for other breeds of inland river fish that had high economic value but were fast depleting in stock.

The fish feed included local ingredients such as ubi kayu (tapioca), oil palm kernels from local mills, rice bran, indigenous herbs like siput gondang emas (golden apple snails) and tongkat ali leaves, he added.

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