Record grouper catch no cause for celebration


This letter by Dr Kam Suan Pheng was sent to The Star but it has not (yet?) been published.

Photograph: George Cheah/The Star
Photograph: George Cheah/The Star

I view with sadness the front page picture of today’s Star newspaper (7 January 2014) the photo of a dead 200kg grouper being hemmed down by a gleeful worker at Cecil Street market in Georgetown.

It is no less distressing to read the news article on page 3 about the ‘record’ catch of this fish, which no doubt made the fishermen RM11,000 richer, but suffers the indignity of ending up in 200-300 bowls of fish-head/fish-meat soup.

Groupers that grow to this size are a rarity worldwide but while it is good to know from catch records that such giants do exist in our Penang and Malaysian waters, these magnificent fish do not deserve to be caught for food and by using trawl nets that do not even give the fish a fighting chance to escape.

Your news article about the individual who bought this fish for his noodle soup business simply serves to provide him with free publicity to draw the crowds that unwittingly encourage such fishing behavior that amounts to cruelty to such a magnificent specimen.

At least two similar catches of such large groupers have been previously reported in your newspaper – on 6 August 2011 and again on 20 December 2012 , where these specimens were also put in the market at high prices. In the December 2012 case, it was reported that because a fish-head noodle stall operator rejected the fish after an initial offer of a handsome price, the fish ended up being sold for a mere RM300 to a factory making salted fish.

Such a wanton action of catching rare fish specimens, which are not protected by regulation, should not be encouraged.

We should be proud that our waters can still nurture the groupers to such age and size but catching them for fish-head noodle soup is not the way to celebrate. Let these magnificent animals roam free in our waters.

As a responsible paper, The Star should actually appeal to the public to desist from patronising food outlets that sell meat from such a catch. When the eating stops, the killing will too.

Dr Kam Suan Pheng

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Don Anamalai

Meanwhile, ‘catch & release’ is practiced on land:


The big fish of PKFZ scandal are fotunate to escape from the big hole of MACC net?

Stylo Logan

So, how did PKFZ lose billions of Ringgit?


One-Quarter of Grouper Species Being Fished to Extinction

May 9, 2012 — Groupers, a family of fishes often found in coral reefs and prized for their quality of flesh, are facing critical threats to their survival. As part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, a team of scientists has spent the past ten years assessing the status of 163 grouper species worldwide. They report that 20 species (12%) are at risk of extinction if current overfishing trends continue, and an additional 22 species (13%) are Near Threatened.


there are many “dongeng” tales with good moral teachings.

ever come across a story whereby a fisherman was pityful of a mermaid caught and decided to release her back into water. The fisherman was granted his wish come true.

So RM11K just a small token. The “spirits” of Grouper creature (to live that long must have inherent magic power?) could have grant him RM11 million Toto strike later ?

With compassionate hearts, our decision unlikely be over-ruled by material greed.


Talking about distressed animals, yesterday morning my friend went to pray a ‘datuk kong’ (of little red shrine) just near the entrance of Palace Hill upscale residence in Bukit Gambier. My friend was immediately alerted by the security personnels at the gate. He couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing – queueing up was a wild boar, the size of an adult dog. Fyi, wild boars usually avoid contact with humans, much less to be seen in urban residential areas. But yesterday was totally surreal. Nearby, the hills were botak-ed for upscale property development such as Star Hill & the… Read more »


It happened so fast, when I was told about it later, the miserable wild boar was no where to be seen.
A fast prayer? Maybe, it didn’t know how to pray with 3 joss sticks & a black chicken. Should it had gone to Komtar Tower to pray-pray-pray, maybe it might get better luck (getting back its forest home, mistresses & offsprings back 🙂 🙂 :).

To verify this 8-1-14 morning incident, go ask the security guards@Palace Hill residence.


Now the news of Palace Hill Wild Boar may capture imagination of ori-maestro wildlife hunters ?
Could this Wild Boar be captured to become Babi Guling roasted to crispy skin for the big feast offerings ?


This miserable wild boar is not only a victim of greedy land development, but also a joke of mistaken food for offering to deity tokong which fyi dislike pork or wild pig offering just as any Malay speaking ‘datuk kong’ of the rainforest. For your knowledge of wild boar cuisine, it is not roasted like any fat-laden farm pig as it is mostly lean meat & tough skin …. Good as ‘sua tu’ curry cooked to spicy & soft but also very heaty. Any Little India restaurant interested? There could be more of these wild boars emigration to ‘bandar’ in… Read more »


distressed animals ? Human also get distressed have to cope with lifestyle pressure imposed ?
Best not to be over concerned about “bin-chui” factors. Spend on needs not wants.
otherwise we can see more Ah Long business flourishing; and more people seeking mental distress at hospitals.


Ong is absolutely right. We should all become vegetarians. And fishermen will turn to crop and vegetable farming since fewer and fewer people will buy fish.


A small fish and a big fish have the same feelings so it doesn’t mean that you can kill and eat a small fish with a clear conscience.


“The future generation will be deprived such fish!”

We’ve heard the expression: “Big fish eat little fish”. Do big groupers eat little groupers? If they do, then if that giant grouper were to continue living, it would be removing many little groupers from the seas and the lament which I quoted above would come true!


If this is true, then it is part of nature and it promotes ‘strongest survives’ in the ocean ecosystem.

But it certainly does not need human intervention, right?


This grouper could be a peaceful grandmother or grandfather of all Penang groupers.
Have respect for it as we are expected to respect ours (e.g. no indignant name calling).
Do you eat your own grandmother with Yee Sang?

Stylo Logan

Bad for karma.


some believe there could be pay back time later ?

remember at one time a dragon boat capsize taking away a student’s life ?


The dragon boat incidence of Jan 2010 was very unfortunate due to one factor – the shallow sea of low tide & strong under currents of the sea channel. In the 70s, this part of Penang sea was deep & inhabited by huge 7ft long groupers, some of which were caught & featured in the news. With insane land development in Tanjung Tokong & Tanjung Bungah, siltation slowly brought about a much shallower sea but still unabated north sea currents acting more strongly near the surface due to a reduced passage. That fateful morning, Chung Ling High school dragon boat… Read more »

A simple man

The biggest sins are shared by the diners. If they have stopped eating them, no fisherman will catch it. The fish never harmed anyone. If it is a female, just imagine how many million fries are been deprived from birth.

Jit Seng

The future generation will be deprived such fish!* */

(What) is the author talking about? Someone go ask him to stop eating rice too. Ask him to go eat … only.


ITS NOT A PROTECTED SPECIES IN THIS COUNTRY?? What have animal/marine-eco protection groups being doing? Its been a protected species in most developed countries since the 1980s..

Giant size fishes should be protected because THEY LAY THE BIGGEST BULK OF THE EGGS for regeneration. They are allowed to be caught only as breeding stock for aqua culture in most places.

georgina t

If you watch National Geographic, such creatures are caught for study and released back in water.

The Star has failed on Conservation theme.

No wonder World Wildlife Fund (WWF) cannot get the conservation message across to the public !

No use spend $ to show off foreign Panda when we don’t treasure our very own Grouper !

May be next time ChewTienYang aquarium can offer incentives to keep such catch alive ?


Look at it this other way. If it was trawlnet-caught, the fishermen did not deliberately set out to catch this big guy. Having caught it, do you seriously think they would set it free? Fishermen don’t have the big savings in the bank that you have. That big fish already had a much longer life than usual. Between an old fish and a young one, it is the young one that should be set free. You don’t grieve an old man dying as much as you would a young man.

Rich Daddy

It’s understandable, RM11,000 can cover the price hike tsunami for a very long time.

Pak Tim

Where are the aliens that are supposed to hunt human hunters?


This giant Groupa could be the Rich Daddy of Penang sea able to spawn (fertise the eggs) and somehow the lifeline being cut just like that ?


Hopefully Danny Ooi of Msia Book of Record not recognize the catch as biggest in Msia.

Danny will be around when there are shadows of VVIP not usually seen at wet markers.


I was sadden too with the photo on the front page of The Star. How can a mere few thousand ringgit justify the killing of such a magnificent animals which took years to grow to this size.

Don Anamalai

The fish stock is dwindling. It does not help if the local media is glamorising such catch.
I think more will go to fish such giant fish for money!

Meanwhile at Butterworth there was recently a big yearly celebration to butcher the biggest pig.

Stylo Logan

I suggest people watch NatGeo Wild programs on big fish, learn way of conservation. If you need to catch them for thrill, then release them back to the sea after taking the photo. No need to kill such marvelous creatures.


There is another type of big fish untouchable in BolehLand – the truly corrupted to the core.
As much as we want to protect Nature’s big fishes, we would also like to see the other type of 2-legged & scaleless big fishes of corruption brought behind bars. Better still put in a tank full of Ikan Toman (snakehead flesh-eating fish of Perak River).