Draw up comprehensive policy to guarantee Penang fishermen's income, govt urged

GEORGE TOWN: The government has been urged to stop the Penang South Island (PSI) reclamation project and formulate a comprehensive policy to guarantee a sustainable livelihood for fishermen.

Gerakan Ekonomi Malaysia president Armin Baniaz Pahamin said today Penang's development plan, especially the PSI, will critically impact the income and future of fishermen and affect local fish supply.

Armin said unfortunately, the government has taken no action to provide an alternative source of income.

Sungai Batu Fishing Unit head Zakaria Ismail's statements and views need to be taken seriously as they also touch on food security and the environment, he said.

The Sungai Batu Fishing Unit, together with the Penang South Fishermen's Association, Penang Fishermen's Association (PEN Mutiara) and Penang State Fishermen's Association, have strongly objected to the PSI project.

"The catch from the area sold through the Penang South Fishermen's Association alone amounts to RM6 million a year, with the catch exceeding 500 tonnes. This does not include the catch from south Kedah and north Perak in the same fishing area.

"The PSI project will not reduce but directly destroy the catch in the south of Penang, and this will affect food security and fish supply in Penang, Kedah and Perak."

Armin said 6,000 fishermen will lose their livelihood.

"The amount of aid provided to fishermen will continue to increase without a solution for the future. This has yet to factor in the impact of the PSI reclamation on nature."

In 2023, aid provided to fishermen in Penang increased to RM1.614 million from RM959,600 in 2022.

The Agriculture and Food Security Ministry also gave out special Aidilfitri aid of RM500 to 38,500 fishermen nationwide.

The Federal Government, through the Malaysian Fisheries Development Board (LKIM), also provides oil subsidies, fishing incentives, fishermen's insurance and fishermen's housing.

"Without comprehensive planning, fishermen will always need help.

"As such, the government needs to provide a policy to ensure the future of fishermen.

"Fertile fishing areas need to be gazetted, protected and preserved."

Armin said while fishing is a profitable industry in developed countries, fishermen in Malaysia still fall in the low-income group.

"One way (to help them) is through the amalgamation of fishing villages under professional management, adapting the latest technology and business models that ensure the catch can guarantee income throughout the year, including the monsoon season.

"This can be achieved by processing canned fish or freezing fish."

In May, the state government announced that it would do away with two of three islands in the controversial PSI project, which means a scaling down of 49 per cent of the total project.

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