More groups representing fisher folk have come together to express concern about land reclamation in Penang.
Representatives from The Penang Inshore (Coastal) Fishermen’s Welfare Association (Pifwa), the Malaysian Coastal Fishermen’s Network (Jaringan Persatuan Nelayan Malaysia or Jaringan) and Pertubuhan Muafakat Warga Desa Kedah met in Sungai Acheh on 27 June to discuss the impact of land reclamation on their livelihoods.
Pifwa represents 6000-7000 registered fisher folk in Penang with several thousand other part-timers.
Perak Jaringan reps say there are 4000 registered fisher folk in Kerian in northern Perak with a larger number of part-timers or unregistered fishers.
With each fisher supporting an average of seven household dependants, that would mean tens of thousands of people in the northern region could potentially feel the impact of full blown land reclamation. The fisher folk worry that not only could their livelihoods be affected but also worry about how they will support their children’s education as fishing catches dwindle.
The fisher folk say Pulau Betong and the muddy coastal areas along the eastern half of the island are important breeding grounds for marine life.
The Malaysian Fisheries Department (Jabatan Perikanan) regards coastal stretches up to one nautical mile from shore as fishing conservation areas.
The Department recently rezoned fishing areas to, among other things, create a healthier ecosystem and protect marine breeding grounds. The rezoning, which takes effect from 1 June 2014, also increases the traditional coastal fisher folks’ catch area to eight nautical miles from shore.
But coastal fisher folk say they are already feeling the impact (including resulting siltation) of land reclamation, which they say extends well beyond the immediate sites of reclamation to important coastal fishing areas such as the mainland stretch from Bagan Ajam to Penaga farther north.