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Saturday May 24, 2008
PENGERANG (Johor): For the first time in decades, Malaysian fishermen will be able to fish off Middle Rocks, which are just 0.6 nautical miles south of Pulau Batu Puteh (or Pedra Branca), which now officially belongs to Singapore.
Yesterday, the International Court of Justice granted ownership of Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore and the Middle Rocks to Malaysia.
“We will have a larger area to fish in,” said a fisherman who has been in the business for more than 30 years.
While some were disappointed that Pulau Batu Puteh went to Singapore, the fishermen said that the decision was fair and that the waters off Middle Rocks were also abundant with fish like sagai, tenggiri and bawal. .
Most of the fishermen here are optimistic that the governments of Malaysia and Singapore will work out something beneficial to both countries.
Sea products wholesaler Boh Ah Chio, 63, said: “As fishermen, we are the ones who are directly affected by the decision as the area off the island is where we make our living.”
As they do not know how the sea patrolling would be carried out following the decision, Boh hoped that their livelihood would not be affected.
“About 70% of our catch are exported to Singapore and we hope that business will still run smoothly,” he said.
Fisherman Syed Ahmad Syed Yasin, 72, said he felt that if Malaysia had been granted ownership of the island, they would have had more freedom at sea.
“We would have our marine police who would take care of our needs if the island was ours,” he said.
Fishermen and wholesalers here had been waiting in anticipation for the decision.
It is learnt that Malaysian authorities had prohibited anyone, including fishermen and pressmen, from going out to sea near Pulau Batu Puteh. It is not clear when the order will be lifted.
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