KOTA KINABALU: A project to preserve the yellowfin tuna fishing sector was recently launched in Sabah’s east coast Semporna district.
The Yellowfin Tuna Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) was launched by Senallang community development leader Adam Shah Mohammad at a hotel here, symbolising efforts to sustain the yellowfin tuna fisheries in the district.
This project was initiated due to the importance of the yellowfin tuna fisheries in Semporna, which produces more than 40% of total yellowfin tuna landings in Sabah.
It is one of 225 FIPs worldwide, and the second in Malaysia after the Tun Mustapha Marine Park off Sabah’s northern Kudat district, which was launched in 2019.
A significant number of fishermen using fishing rods, particularly from Mabul island off Semporna are not only key contributors to the yellowfin tuna fishing industry, but were also highly dependent on the fish as their source of income and food.
Located within the Semporna Priority Conservation Area (PCA), the Yellowfin Tuna FIP is a marine spatial planning (MSP) initiative, which is implemented in several countries including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Mexico and the United States.
Adam Shah highlighted that the project would ensure the sustainability of the yellowfin tuna fisheries and benefit the economy along the supply chain, thus, ensuring a more lucrative income for the fishing community.
This idea was supported by Semporna district officer Juraimin Jadil who in his welcome speech said the district has a vast sea area and is an important tourism destination for Malaysia.
“As an important resource for tourism, the development of a sustainable fishing industry such as through this project is a good first step towards promoting unique and sustainable seafood,” Juraimin added.
The Yellowfin Tuna FIP is governed by 10 stakeholder groups comprising government agencies, research institutes, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and communities from Mabul island.
Following the preparation of action plans through several coordination meetings since 2018, the project, chaired by the Semporna district office with support from the Senallang community and the Sabah Fisheries Department, will enter its implementation phase shortly after the launch.
WWF-Malaysia marine footprint manager Chitra Devi extended their appreciation to these key stakeholders as well as others concerned for their joint efforts to address issues such as illegal, unreported and uncontrolled (IUU) fishing, overfishing and exploitation of protected marine species.
These efforts will improve living standards of fishers and marine ecosystems found in the 400,000 ha of marine waters in southern Semporna.
Focused on research activities and traceability development, the Yellowfin Tuna FIP is located in the Coral Triangle, which includes the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands.
Apart from WWF-Malaysia, the project receives funding from Yayasan Hasanah for activities involving improving the quality of yellowfin tuna such as the adaptation of freezing processes and innovations for onboard fish storage systems.