Penang eateries experiencing a drop in seafood sales

Large haul: Dockworkers unloading a catch at the jetty in Pulau Ketam, Selangor. — KK SHAM/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Major restaurants here have experienced a 20% drop in their seafood business due to concerns over marine pollution caused by the release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan into the Pacific Ocean, said the head of an association that represents some 40 major restaurants in Penang.

“Some of these restaurants even put a halt to their imports. Although our fish supply is not only from Japan, such worries have led to customers opting for local fish.

“Fortunately, waters around our country are still safe and we have many farms to produce enough for consumption.

“Some farms have developed so much that fishes sold come in larger sizes to satisfy more consumers,” said Penang Koo Soo Kwong Choon Tong Restaurant and Tea Shop Association chairman Vinah Yee.

Yee said prices of seafood products remain stable and customers who have concerns about it may opt for other meat products such as chicken, duck or pork.

“These other meats are widely available and affordable substitutes for any occasion,” she said.

As for bookings for year-end feasts, Yee said it has not begun and expects it to pick up from November onwards.

Maple Palace manager Alex Teoh said the restaurant has not received any year-end bookings as of yet, but added that it will be launching its new packages soon.

“We will release a series of new packages by the end of this month,” he said.

Fishmonger Abdul Mutalib Abdul Wahab, 48, said while restaurants might be facing a decline in orders, most locals are not really bothered over the situation in Japan.

“Locals are still buying. I only sell local fish sourced from Penang or neighbouring states.

“To my knowledge, our waters are not affected and as long as people do not spread fake news, we will not be affected.

“The price of fish has dropped but this is because there is more supply than demand.

“This is normal as there are no occasions or celebrations right now and people just buy to cook for their everyday household needs,” he said when met at the Tun Sardon market here.

Abdul Mutalib said he was selling fish at a cheaper price as most of his customers are elderly or from single income households.

“I have been here for 30 years and know these people, so I care but others do sell it for more.

“Right now, we are not facing the effect of the news about Japan.

“As long as the people’s perception about local fish and seafood does not change, I foresee it will be business as usual for us,” he said.

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