MUAR: Shortage of fish and escalating operating costs are causing concern to eight fishermen -- six in Parit Jawa, in Muar; and two in Bagan, near Batu Pahat, Johor.
They use fish traps made of wire mesh to catch fish in the Straits of Malacca.
As the fish prices soar, fish thefts have also increased in recent years.
It is learnt, annually, about 30 per cent of the fish traps laid at sea are stolen by thieves, damaged by illegal trawling activities and vessels plying along the international waters.
Fisherman Yap Ee Tiam, 56, said: "About 12 per cent of the traps were stolen this year compared with 10 per cent last year," said he said.
Yap said about 18 per cent of the traps were damaged by illegal trawlers and vessels plying international waters this year compared with 16 per cent last year.
Yap said the thieves were professionals and they knew where the traps were laid.
He said more illegal trawlers were encroaching into prohibited waters in Muar because the catch was good.
His 44-year-old assistant, Jalal Budin, said he would have to look for other jobs if his daily income failed to meet family expenses.
Fellow Parit Jawa fisherman, Wong Teck Kwang, 38, said he would have to abandon fishing as he could not afford to buy wire netting.
Another fisherman, Tan Ching Hing, 40, from Bagan, said they were laying fewer traps, between 100 and 200, compared with 300 to 500 three years ago due to the thefts and high operating costs.
He said fishermen picked specific routes to lay the traps.
Tan said the prices of fishing equipment such as wire mesh, lead weight, and rope have also gone up by moer than l00 per cent in the last five years.
"Each trap, costing RM700, can only last for eight months and fishermen can only haul up the traps for 15 days a month, depending on weather condition. Quite often, some traps are empty while others contain fish worth RM2,000."
Tan said he could not estimate the loss of fish in the stolen traps.
Muar-Batu Pahat Fishermen's Association president Ser Boon Huat said if the shortage of fish and the increase in the prices of fishing equipment continued, these fishermen would be forced to lay even fewer traps. "This will result in the prices of fish going up even higher," he said.