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Fishermen faction disputes claims of depleting marine harvest due to Silicon Island reclamation

Fishermen faction disputes claims of depleting marine harvest due to Silicon Island reclamation

by Ian McIntyre

SIX inshore fishermen have come forward to dispute the account relayed by Sg Batu Fishermen Unit head Zakaria Ismail that monthly catches have nosedived following the commencement of reclamation for the controversial man-made Silicon Island at Penang island’s southern coast.


The videos of them making these assertions were recently made available to The Vibes.


The fishermen stated on camera that based on their own observations the claims of depleting catches and environmental neglect were either misguided or inaccurate.


The fishermen are mostly from the nearby the Teluk Kumbar locality.


All six Zazali Sirun, Muhammad Long, Suhaimi Abas, Idris Ismail, Nor Al Rizuen Abdul Rashid and Azlee Idris — ended up praising the reclamation project, in stark contrast to the criticisms and concerns raised by Zakaria.


Idris said that his colleagues and him gathered more quantities of fish for the first few months of this year, and he cannot recall suffering from a shortfall in catches.


“There are days when we do get a lower catch. It is normal for our profession but generally our catches have been consistent and there is no real (adverse) impact on our work,” he said.


Idris also said that the SRS Consortium, as the project delivery partner of the Penang South Islands (PSI) mega reclamation project which includes Island A named as Silicon Island, has been professional with the affected fishermen.


“We have been given boat engines and underwent new courses on how to fish better by using technology. We are grateful for this. Our lives as fishermen continue normally.”


Idris was joined by Zazali and Azlee, who claimed that the reclamation project allows them to supplement their income as helmsmen for those wishing to head out to sea to survey the reclamation zone.


The reclamation is ongoing about 10km from the Batu Maung shoreline. It is visible to airline passengers when their aircraft approaches the Penang International Airport from the sea.


Zazali and Azlee said that they now have a fixed income as they consistently land catches while servinh as helmsmen for SRS.


“We have contributions made to Sosco and EPF, while the additional income makes my wife and children happy,” said Azlee.


The six fishermen also countered the notion that the majority of the fishermen here are against the project.


They stressed that it is up to each individual to make their stance, but in their case the reclamation project is welcomed by their families, friends and colleagues.


Attempts are underway to reach out to the National Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) on the statistics in relation to the fish landed in Penang at present compared to before the reclamation started last year.


It is learnt that some quarters have even claimed that the catches are now more than before the reclamation began.


Earlier, seven other fishermen, together with Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Jaringan Ekologi dan Iklim (Jedi), had filed an application for judicial review in the George Town High Court to challenge the planning permission given to commence the project.


The nine applicants are suing the state Town and Country Planning (PLANMalaysia) director as the first respondent, State Planning Committee (second respondent), Penang government (third respondent) and SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd (fourth respondent).


Among them, Zakaria Ismail is bringing the action for and on behalf of himself and the fishing community living and/or conducting fishing activities off the coast of Penang island adversely affected by the PSI project.


The 67-year old reportedly said that since the project started on September 1 last year, catches in the area, especially prawns, have suffered a significant decline of up to 50 percent.


He said that based on a comparative analysis of the fourth quarter of 2022, the average shrimp catch was 192.41 kg but in the fourth quarter of last year, it plummeted to 92.69kg.


Last May, Penang announced that it would do away with two of three proposed reclamation islands of the controversial PSI.


This meant a scaling down of 49 per cent of the total three islands project.


Silicon Island measures about 920ha, and a bulk of the land would be used for housing and industrial purposes, hoping that it will mirror the runaway success of the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone which has made Penang an integral part of the global supply chain for electronics and electrical components. — The Vibes, March 16, 2024.

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