Fishermen in troubled waters call for govt’s help

Tan (third from left) wants the government to look into the difficulties faced by fishermen in Sarawak.

Sarawak Fishing Vessel Association wants the Federal Government to revoke its decision to reduce the diesel subsidy quota for fishermen as it will have a significant impact on their livelihood.

Association chairman Harry Tan said the Federal Government reduced the quota for subsidy in January without any prior notification.

“Diesel expenses make up a large part of a fishing boat’s operating cost.

“Reducing the quota for subsidy means that the monthly operating cost will increase, directly affecting fishermen’s livelihoods.

“Since the catch on each fishing trip is uncertain, sometimes it may not even cover the fuel expenses for the trip,” said Tan at a press conference.

The association raised three other issues that required urgent attention from the Federal or Sarawak governments.

One of them is licence transfers that do not allow continuation of the original terms, even if passed from father to son.

For instance, C7 licences that originally allowed fishermen to operate within seven miles (about 11km) from shore will be converted into C12 once transferred, and C10 licences must be changed to C30.

“The enforced changes in the licence transfer require fishing boats to operate in offshore waters further away,” said Tan.

“Fishermen will then be forced to upgrade their boats and this will incur significant expenses.

“Not all fishermen can afford to do this, causing some boats to be left with no one to take over,” he said.

The association said the situation would not only affect fishermen but also the supply of fish and shrimp in the market, leading to price fluctuations.

It hopes that the Malaysian Fisheries Development Board can cancel the aforementioned conditions for licence transfers and allow the new vessel owner to use the original licence.

Regarding the man-made reef balls in Sarawak waters, Tan wants the Sarawak Forestry Corporation to communicate with fishermen organisations or provide them with a map that shows the locations of the reef balls.

Fishermen, he said, had limited knowledge of the reef balls’ location and were not consulted by the authorities prior to the balls’ placement in Sarawak waters.

“As a result, fishing nets sometimes catch on the reef balls accidentally.

“This causes significant damage to the nets and can even overturn the boats,” he said.

The association also faced difficulties in using the Hock Ang Road fishing boat wharf, which is managed by Sarawak Rivers Board.

“To provide convenience to our members, we hope that the Sarawak government can lease the Hock Ang Road wharf to us for a nominal rent and allow us to manage the wharf,” said Tan.

The association has a total of 271 members, with over 300 Class C fishing vessels.

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diesel , subsidy , fishing associations


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