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Deep sea fishing still has vast potential: Dept
Published on: Saturday, January 13, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: The Sabah Fisheries Department said a recent survey showed deep sea fishing still has vast potential for growth in the State, especially pelagic fish species.

Its Director Dr Ahemad Sade said any investor or company is welcome to venture in the industry.

However, they must meet the criteria and procedures before their application can be approved.

He was responding to Daily Express' report about a query by Parti Warisan Sabah Vice President Junz Wong about a letter purportedly signed by Deputy Chief Minister cum Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin supporting a company's application for 10 additional deep sea fishing permits.

He was quoted as saying that the issuance of deep sea fishing permits must be stopped and the issue on foreign boats as well as illegal fishing resolved.

According to Dr Ahemad, Sabah has 51 deep sea fishing vessels which are licensed by the department and are still actively used by 11 local companies.

Out of the 51 vessels, 18 are locally made whereas 33 were made in Vietnam but operated by local companies with permits.

He said effective 2015, foreign made vessels such as from Vietnam, Taiwan, China, the Philippines and Brunei were no longer allowed except for ones which had been given permits before that year.

He also said that starting that same year, all deep sea vessels in Sabah are required to install Monitoring Tracking Unit (MTU) device to help track their movements.

Currently, 40 vessels have installed the MTU while the remaining 11 have yet to do so.

Other than the MTU, he said a special marker is also placed in each vessel for identification.

"The department has also made it compulsory for the iiVMS system (Intruder Intervention Vessel Monitoring System) to be installed on commercial fishing boats. So far 150 of these vessels have been installed with iiVMS," he added.

He said deep sea fishing vessels are only allowed to operate in two zones either at the west coast or Tawau at the distance of 30 nautical miles or more from shore.

He said under the Fisheries Act 1985 (Act 317), foreign fishing vessels that are caught in Malaysian waters, its owners or skippers can be fined RM1 million and RM100,000 for each crew. Their vessels also will be seized and disposed of.

On fish catch in Sabah, Dr Ahemad said 10-year statistics from 2006 to 2015 did not show a decline, but instead had been consistent.

"In that 10-year period, the annual catch was estimated to be 180,000 metric tonnes.

As a comparison, the catch in 2016 was 176,314 metric tonnes at the value of RM530.6 million whereas in 2015, the difference wasn't far apart as it was 175,443 metric tonnes yet its value was higher at RM902.5 million," he explained.

He said through sustainable fisheries resource management, Sabah maintains its status as a net exporter of fisheries commodities and has 100 per cent self-sufficiency level (SSL) in the industry.

"Sabah will continue to be a major exporter of fisheries products in Malaysia with a balance of trade (BoT) that will continue to show a positive impact in the range of RM400 million to RM500 million annually," he said.

Besides this, he said the department will establish cooperation with fishermen especially commercial fishermen who will become their eyes and ears to monitor fisheries resources in the State.

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