1,000 fisherfolk protest against land reclamation plan in southern Penang Island

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This is one of the last bastions of fishing in Penang Island. Notice that the protesters are both Chinese and Malay: this is certainly not a racial issue for cheap politicking. The real issue is the potential loss of livelihoods of the fishing communities and of an important source of food supply for Penangites – to make way for property development, much of it probably for the high-end market.

Rampant property development, a large chunk of it to feed real estate speculators, had already gobbled up most of the vegetable farms in Penang. Now, we have to rely heavily on Cameron Highlands for local vegetables.

Will the same thing now happen to the marine fisheries sector?

Will we now have to import even more of our fresh marine fish (as opposed to farmed fish or fish in cages)? The coastal fisherfolk on the mainland lament that Penang is already importing 90 per cent of the marine fish consumed in the state from around the region, especially Thailand, as a result of dwindling catches here due to sedimentation and siltation.

But what happens when our source of imported fish don’t have enough to supply to us? What will happen to the price of fish, which has already soared? This is ironic, isn’t it, considering that Penang is almost surrounded by the sea.

Just as in the Seri Tanjung Pinang project, the fisherfolk will be promised all sorts of things. They will be told to venture into more lucrative fields. In the case of STP, jaws dropped at a public consultation when it was put to the fisherfolk that they could open up seafood restaurants.

This report from The Malaysian Insider:

Death of our community, fishermen say of southern Penang reclamation plan

BY LOOI SUE-CHERN
Published: 13 December 2015 7:00 PM

Penang’s idea to build man-made islands in the south of the island to finance the RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is not getting any support from the fishing community in the area.

The proposed project, which saw five PKR assemblymen and one from DAP breaking ranks with the state government over a Barisan Nasional (BN) motion on the matter, was the subject of a protest today by more than 1,000 fishermen in the area.

They gathered by the seaside at Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar to voice their displeasure over the proposed reclamation. They represented 14 fishermen units, which have 3,000 members operating from Permatang Damar Laut to Sungai Pinang in Balik Pulau.

“Nobody asked us what we think at all, despite this having to do with our livelihood,” said Datuk Chooi Sooi Kong, 70, the Gertak Sanggul fishermen unit chairman whose unit represents some 400 fishermen and their crew.

Fishermen there, he said, fish in areas up to 3km from the shore, and the proposed project was 1.5km from the coastline.

“That is what we have heard. The islands will be in our fishing area, where the breeding grounds for fish and prawns are. The project is going to cost people like us who rely on the sea to live.

“They should come and talk to us, so we can tell them how their proposal will affect fishermen,” Chooi said.

PTMP’s project delivery partner, SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, has proposed to the state to reclaim two man-made islands – 1,300 acres (526 hetares) and 2,100 acres (850ha) respectively – and possibly a third island of 800 acres (324ha) nearby if necessary.

The islands would then be auctioned off by the state to pay for the transport projects under the masterplan. However, federal government approval for the master plan is necessary, and without it, the project, including the land reclamation, cannot take off.

Fishermen in the area, Chooi said, are already sore about how mega projects, including the Second Penang Bridge, had changed the condition of their fishing grounds in the south.

He said when the bridge was built, there was a decrease in fish and prawn catches and the price of seafood went up.

“You reclaim in the south, you will affect everyone. You do it up north, the impact on fisheries won’t be so huge because the catch there is little compared with here.

“The PTMP is good but you should come up with plans that don’t affect people’s lives. The sea south of the island has been a source of income for so many families here for generations,” said Chooi, whose father also worked as a fisherman and fishmonger.

“The government should start preserving the sea in this area for future generations,” he added.

New fishing port

The masterplan and land reclamation proposal were presented to the public at a session on the PTMP last week at the city council Town Hall in George Town.

It was stated then that SRS planned to build a new modern port for the fishermen who are expected to be affected by the land reclamation.

Like Chooi, Arshad Omar who heads the southern region fishermen associations of Penang that involve 14 units, said the fishermen were unaware of the public session and knew nothing of the new port plan.

“How can we say if we agree or not? We haven’t been told anything. All we know is, this project, if it proceeds, will be the death of the fishermen here, which is why we are speaking out now, instead of relying on other NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to talk.

“There will be pollution and mud that will make it hard for us to get our boats out. The sea current will also bring pollution to other areas like Balik Pulau. We will all be hit by the vast impact.

“If we can still earn RM100 to RM200 a day now, we can certainly forget about it if this project goes ahead. There will be no chance (to make a living),” he said, urging the state to consider the lives of the fishing community.

“Don’t make beggars of us. If the people suffer, the government won’t be doing well too. Don’t just look at development, developers and forget about the people.”

Fisherman Nazri Ahmad, who has been fishing for a living for 25 years, said they will send a memorandum to Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the Department of Environment to push for the southern coast and the sea to be left alone.

He said the fishermen would seek legal advice if they needed to, and stressed that their protest was not political or against any individual, but merely to protect and defend their traditions and livelihoods.

“We are also not against development. We never objected against previous developments, until this one because it will hit us hard.

“We know Penang is small but growth is necessary. But we cannot keep on developing until it cost us the ecosystem. It does seem that the development rate is out of control,” he said.

Protest

The fishermen, both Malay and Chinese, stood and marched shoulder to shoulder while carrying placards and banners with messages to convey their pleas, concerns and also anger.

At the end of the protest which lasted over an hour, they burned a fishing net to symbolise “the death of the fishing community”.

The proposed project gained attention in Penang recently after a motion was tabled at the state legislative assembly last month by BN assemblyman Muhamad Farid Saad.

He had asked the House to compel the DAP state government to subject all land reclamation projects to public hearings and to put on hold new land reclamation projects until oceanic and environmental impact studies are done.

The state government was in an uproar after one DAP backbencher, Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, an active campaigner over environmental matters, voted in support for the motion.

Five PKR assemblymen abstained from voting and their party, which is DAP’s ally, has defended their vote based on conscience. The motion was defeated with 23 nays against 10 ayes.

The breaking of ranks by assemblymen from the state government bench drew the ire of Lim, who accused the PKR lawmakers of betrayal and siding with the BN.

Teh later apologised for voting against party lines and resigned as Penang DAP organising secretary.

SRS told the public session last week that the reclamation was technically viable and the next step was to conduct a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA), which would be done by June next year.

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benny

Here is a practice in Singapore that is worth benchmarking:
http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/fish-farmer-dreams-saving-ocean

gk ong

Anil and readers should check up the Forest City development near Johor second link to Singapore. The reclamation project is touted in its print advertisement as a prime model of future city (new global city, common public realm, sustainable urban model):

http://www.forestcitycgpv.com
http://www.facebook.com/forestcitycgpv

Ayub

Forest City is partly developed by a very influential and powerful person in Johor. So nobody dare to criticise.

benny

Kes Tang Hak Ju tunjuk kemungkinan dihadapi KN jika batal kontrak tebus guna dilulus

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RoJBRx1Wt3Y

Shieny

Who is Tang Hak Ju?

owc

The Penang government is prepared not to approve the proposal to reclaim two huge plots of land off the southern coast of Penang Island if the people are against it. CM Lim Guan Eng said his administration wanted to get the views and opinion of the people before finalising anything.

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1644020

sallang

The fishermen folks who protested are all elderly people. Are their children also fishing for a living? It so happen that development have reach their ‘playing field’. I would suggest that they continue to fish as a hobby, and using their licensed boat to cater for fishing enthusiasts who are willing to pay rm100 for a day’s fishing trip. Cook for them with the fish that they caught and they will pay a bit more. When the island is reclaimed, a warung is allocated for each family to sell anything they like. Come on, Not far south is Tg Piendang,… Read more »

Ong

ini semua activist cuma activist cari makan Pulau Pinang yang buat dengan support Gerakan + umno dibelakang, Malaysian hari ini terlalu malas sampai hanya bergantung pada Bangala yang boleh buat kerja susah-susah untuk mereka, kita semua harapkan kerja senang-senang dan gaji tinggi-tinggi, siapa yang masih berhasrat untuk menjadi nelayan, tolong cakap ! siapa punya anak bercita-cita menjadi nelayan atau ibu-bapa mengharapkan anaknya satu hari boleh menjadi seorang nelayan yang rajin ?

henson

Ah Ong cakap, Mana Ah Heng & Ah Huat ?

Ah Heng & Ah Huat can update us on LRT to be built from Gelugor to Prai running parallel to the first bridge ?

With LRT, fishes from mainland can reach the island fast and fresh ?

bigjoe

lost of “livelihood”? “important” food supply??? Come on. If you are fishing to make a living in 2015 Penang, you need to be to be shocked out of your apathy of economic reality.. As for food supply, i would be surprise if it makes up more than 1% of the fish and seafood supply to Penang.. The only valid argument is the ecological damage. Even then, its doubtful its not irreplaceable.. The real argument against reclamation is that reclamation for economic and financial reasons in Penang is not sustainable in the long run..After you build all the high end property… Read more »

kuning cilik

The plight of these fishrrmen is no different to those factory workers at Bayan Lepas when the MNC relocated to cheaper countries. One need to constantly upgrade skills to avoid structural unemployment. Nobody owes you a living in this competitive world

thirul

Many old-school business are facing new threats from development.
Taxi drivers are threatened by Uber and GrabCar.
New technology will displace many old jobs, even robots are used to cook noodles nowadays!

tunglang

As I had said before, this Pulo Pinang is turning into a developers’ playground of fancy development & “killing field” for reaping massive profits from a ready market of gambler speculators but few buyers. But who … cares. As long as they (the greedy developers) get to achieve their fanciful dreams, others like the fishermen can forget about sustainable careers in the marine industry. You can tell them to sell Ikan Panggang Sambal in front of Queensway Mall, but then the fish will have to come from somewhere & being more expensive to stock. My suggestion to those who have… Read more »

henson

Parachute book which tunglang recommends the readers to digest with a cup of kopi o kau kau !

kuning cilik

Kopi Superbest Power kaw kaw …

benny
tunglang

Quote: “Just as in the Seri Tanjung Pinang project, the fisherfolk will be promised all sorts of things. They will be told to venture into more lucrative fields. In the case of STP, jaws dropped at a public consultation when it was put to the fisherfolk that they could open up seafood restaurants.” What if majority of Penangites oppose frenzy development & go tell these greedy developers to change career – “You better venture into batu nisan business to save more scarce land spaces & green hills (full of granite) for meaningful social existence. You may even carve a name… Read more »

sunnyooi

Anil,

We are waiting for your holistic master plan to rival tokongs version. That’s the only way to convince the public that there is a better way.

calvinsankaran

Just after UMNO’s motion on land reclamation, an angry Tokong erupted like the Mount Vesuvius and lashed out saying that his CAT-govt only approved 60 acres of land for reclamation. He made the statement while clearly knowing that the state has already decided to allow a massive reclamation under the SRS scheme. This ugly episode is demonstration of LGE’s character – a leader walks his talk on CAT and integrity will not try to mislead the people by … hiding facts. In fact when the SRS was revealed, LGE was missing and the job of announcing the deal was passed… Read more »

Hooray

Ideal properties (part of SRS consortium,) has acquired and developed Sungai Tiram farmland area near the airport, paving for lifestyle condos and even international school. No more animal smells sensitive to some community, as the residents there now may wakeup to aroma of starry coffee among the franchised commercial outlets there? Ideal to some no need to fish from the sea as can cultivate cosmopolitan genetic improved fish farming off reclaimed shores? The children of southern fishermen may be trained for commercial fish farming provided new residents of new condos there do not object to that later? Hope I live… Read more »

benny

Penang should explore Fish farming and aquaculture, as practiced in Singapore even after land reclamation is done:
http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/concepts/aquaculture.htm

Singapore fish farms: From kelongs to wifi
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QxD31ksvC_k

benny

The Good Aquaculture Practice for Fish Farming (GAP-FF) Certification Scheme was launched in Singapore in August 2014. http://www.ava.gov.sg/files/avavision/Issue1_2015/fishy-business-good-aquaculture-practice.html The GAP-FF is a set of guidelines to help fish farms improve in key areas such as farm infrastructure management, farm husbandry, fish health management, and farm environment management. These guidelines were developed with reference to internationally recognised standards and adapted to ensure they are relevant to the local farming industry. The aim is to raise awareness of local fish farms among consumers, as well as to provide assurance to both retailers and consumers by setting the benchmark for the production of… Read more »

tunglang

What I heard from my friend who was previously a Batu Maung fish farmer was this – he fed his fish with fish food pallets for its convenience (fast dispensing, clean handling & easy storage) & cheaper option. BUT he mentioned what made up these pallets are chemically produced (such as chemical antioxidant preservative) ingredients which inadvertently go into the food chain of those who advocate / practise fish farming. And he never eat his own farmed fish for good reasons. NOW, still wanna eat fishes from fish farms??? Just go ahead (if you wish for a shorter life). Note:… Read more »

benny

The frozen ‘Sutchi Fish’ fillet you get at Giant or Tesco are from fish farm in Vietnam. Most eateries (including Manhattan Fish) in Penang use such fillet but renamed as Dory Fish for their ‘Fish & Chips’.

https://hongfood.wordpress.com/products/seafood/sutchi-fish-filletcream-dory-fillet/

johan Khun Pana

While this is a good idea but it takes years for the water quality to be back to normal or clean enough to sustain marine life. This will require vast amount of compensation as well as waiting time to over 1000 fishermen . It involves drawing up future plan for the more than 1000 fishermen part of shares in farmed fishery project. The main issue is that the artificial island/s is not in discussion with those who are truly affected. Instead of consultation, they(the fishermen) were simply told to open seafood restaurants? This is NOT the way of an elaborated… Read more »

gk ong

Certain fishermen are living on profits of reselling the subsidised diesel without having to go out to the sea, let alone fishing.

Hooray

Some fishermen being advised to become Spore boat operators of the south, but who is going to donate the boats for them to run business? Giat Mara ?

tunglang

To get rid of fishermen, just blame them for anything ‘diesel’.
Pls lah. Go get a life by the seaside! And eat sands if cannot build islands for the rich & famous.

tunglang

Q: Which choice is for the better + for the longer sustainable run?
‘Unaffordable’ richie properties encroaching endlessly on limited spaces for the enjoyment & speculative penchant of the 1% rich + famous OR
healthy + tasty + affordable fish for the general populace of Penang.

Pls don’t be overtly selfish & covetous just b’cos you Got Money Can Do Anything to build anything fanciful according to greedy + heartless developers.

ConcernedCitizen

You do realise that the website you linked to (WildSingapore) is actually pointing out that commercial fish farms harm the environment, right? Singapore may be an example to follow in many things, but management of the environment is probably not one of them.

Jamri

Yes, go pancing your catfish on the longkang…. Ha ha ha, freshness guaranteed as the catfish is organic.