KOTA KINABALU: Fish farmers in Kinabatangan, the site of Malaysia’s biggest Ramsar site, were stunned to find that all their fish, reared in cages, were dead.
“We noticed something amiss earlier. When dawn came the next day (last Friday), our worst fears were confirmed when we found all of them belly up,” said Kampung Mumiang Village Development and Security Committee head Mada Hussin.
The fish were reared in 50 cages.
Kampung Mumiang is located at the estuary of the Kinabatangan River and is about an hour away by speedboat from Sandakan.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, better known as the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental treaty that looks into conservation wetlands and their resources. There are six Ramsar sites in Malaysia.
Mada said the farmers lost grouper, snapper and other types of fish, adding that the cost could come up to RM100,000.
This would impact about 50 families, he said.
“We want answers from the authorities. We want to know the cause. We want compensation from whoever is responsible for our losses,” Mada said.
The villagers, he said, would usually keep some fish for their own consumption and sell the rest.
“We have lost everything now,” he added.
He said the farmers were in a dilemma as they could not depend on catching fish at the nearby river due to dwindling numbers.
“The villagers are now waiting for test results on samples taken by the Fisheries Department.”
Mada said pollutants from a plantation could have flowed into the Malangking River, a tributary of the Kinabatangan.
“The last time we lost fish on this scale was about four years ago,” he said.
Cynthia Ong, the director of Forever Sabah which works towards an equitable and green economy, said such tragic events were typically associated with oxygen depletion in dead zones caused by fertiliser, palm oil mill effluents or disturbed peat soil.
“Studies in Malaysia and around the world showed that fisheries sustained by healthy mangroves are worth hundreds of dollars per hectare to the Sabah economy,” Ong said.
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