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Penang South Islands do not affect food security

Penang South Islands do not affect food security

Published by Nanyang Siang Pau • 22/06/2022

The Penang South Islands (PSI) reclamation project, based on fisheries data, is unlikely to threaten the food security in Penang, said the secretary of Sustainable Malaysia Association (SMA), Boey Suet Yee.


Boey, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Food Sciences and Nutrition, said in a statement that the Southern part of Penang Island is not the most abundant fish area and the amount of fish landing is also not particularly high. Furthermore, the type of fish caught in this area is the ordinary fish that can be caught in other waters of Malaysia.


According to the 2018 Fisheries Department’s data, the coastal fish yield in the waters closest to the PSI project only accounted for 1.5% (1,317 tonnes) of Penang’s total annual fish yield (marine fisheries and aquaculture) of 83,881 tonnes.1


On the contrary, Batu Maung’s trawlers contributed the highest fish yield in the
southern part of Penang Island because trawlers can go for deep-sea fishing and catch more fish than the coastal fishermen in the PSI area.”

Boey, who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in sustainable development, was responding to the comments issued by Agora Society Malaysia titled ‘Penang Reclamation Endangers Food Security’.


Trawler boats go further into the deep sea to fish


Boey said statistics from the Fisheries Department in 2018 showed that the
contribution of trawlers covers more than 90% of the fish landings in the southern part. This means the PSI project actually has very little impact on trawlers because they go far away from PSI area to fish.


“Currently, only a small number of coastal fishermen are fishing in the PSI area. Most of them choose to venture further to catch more fishes.”


Boey also presented the data from Fisheries Department on fish landing during the Seri Tanjung Pinang 2 (STP2) reclamation in the northern part of Penang Island where volume of fish landing actually increased by 15% when the reclamation project started in 2016 compared to pre-reclamation in 2015. In 2015, the total fish landing was only 49,783 tonnes; in 2016 (after reclamation works started), it increased to 57,013 tonnes.


“Data doesn’t show that reclamation project threatens food security. When STP2 reclamation works were ongoing during this period, the number of fish landings did not go down; instead, fish landings increased compared to the past. From 2017 to 2020, the number of fish landings recorded 214,583 tonnes – an increase of 8,126 tonnes compared to 206,457 tonnes from 2012 to 2015.”2


Citing the Penang Economic and Development Report 2019/2020, Boey said Penang’s food fish sub-sector (consisting of marine-capture fisheries, aquaculture fisheries, and inland fisheries) produced 83,917.7 metric tonnes of fish valued at RM1.1bil in 2018. The wholesale value of food fish production is also the second-highest in the country (after Perak), with marine-capture fisheries accounting for 65% of the state’s food fish production (54,854 metric tonnes valued at RM522.6million) and aquaculture nearly 35% (29,027metric tonnes worth RM551.2million), and production from inland fisheries contributed less than 0.04% of the total.3


There are only 952 fishermen in the PSI area


Boey also corrected the Lin’s statement that “The Penang State Government has resolutely implemented the PSI project despite the opposition of 6,000 fishermen in Penang.


“This number is incorrect. According to statistics from the Fisheries Department, there are only 952 fishermen in the PSI area. They are all from the 9 fishermen’s units namely Gertak Sanggul, Teluk Kumbar, Sungai Batu, Permatang Tepi Laut, Pulau Betong, Kuala Sungai Burung, Seri Jerejak, Batu Maung and Teluk Tempoyak.”4


Among the 952 fishermen, Boey said 343 have registered under the PSI Social Impact Management Programme (SIMP). Last year, NGO Lestari and a few fishermen representatives have also launched a signature campaign to hasten the state government in implementing the PSI project where they successfully collected a total of 1,521 signatures from fishermen and residents to show their support.5


Boey said the PSI project does not endanger food security neither does it “break the fishermen’s rice bowls.” Instead, it will improve the livelihood of fishermen and ensure the future of their children. The state government has launched the SIMP to aid the fishermen and their younger generations.


Under the SIMP, fishermen will be getting new boats and engines to allow them to continue going out to the sea or even fish further while reclamation works are ongoing.  At the same time, the SIMP also provides them with financial assistance (ex-gratia), on-the-job training, educational opportunities for their children and more.


In March this year, the state government also announced the setting up of a co-operative – Koperasi Pulau Pinang Selatan Berhad (KKPPSB) to provide its members (southern fishermen, residents, and business owners) additional income, job and business opportunities. A total of 9 fishermen who signed up for the seafarers’ course has also obtained their Certificate of Competency (COC) in April this year. With the COC, they will be able to work on pontoons and ships below 500 gross tonnages and offer boat transport services for construction workers and tourists to earn additional or alternative income.6


According to the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) study in the PSI Project Environmental Assessment Report (EIA), acceptance of the PSI project by the Southern communities and fishermen has also increased from 51.1% in 2019 to 79.1% this year.


The mitigation measures in the EIA report also indicate that reclamation and construction work will be carried out in a controlled manner to ensure that the fishermen are able to go out to sea when reclamation works are ongoing.

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