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