GEORGE TOWN: Environmental group, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), has renewed calls to the Penang goverment to cancel the decision to implement reclamation projects in the state.
This follows numerous incidents which it claimed had threatened the lives of fishermen at existing reclamation sites, such as Pantai Jerejak.
SAM research officer S. Mageswari said the group was worried over continous threats the projects posed to the livelihood of more than 4,000 coastal fishermen in the state.
She said despite objections by affected coastal fishermen and non-governmental organisations including SAM and Consumers' Association of Penang, the Penang government has yet to assure that the projects would not threaten the environment and fishermen's livelihood.
"The July 23 incident proves that the responsible parties failed to pay due attention to defending the fate and livelihood of fishermen, now and in the future.
"Taking into consideration the adverse impacts of reclamation to the coastal and marine ecosystem, and subsequently the fisheries sector, SAM urges the state government to immediately cancel the decision to implement reclamation projects in the state, especially the proposed Penang South Reclamation project involving more than 4,000 acres," she said.
Mageswari said SAM has received numerous complaints from affected fishermen on the decline of their catches and income arising from reclamation projects that have been implemented in several areas in the state.
"Marine water pollution and ever decreasing fishing zones due to reclamation at the coastal areas have caused dwindling fisheries resources and thus catches, at times deteriorating to 70 per cent of their daily income.
"Among areas affected by reclamation projects on the island are Tanjung Tokong, Sungai Gelugor, Jelutong, Batu Uban, Persiaran Gurney and Queensbay," she added.
On the massive Penang South Reclamation at the southern coastline of the island, which involves the creation of three man-made islands, Mageswari said the environmental impact assessment of the project stated that in 2015, a total of 2,757 licensed fishermen operated within the impact zone of the project.
The wholesale value of fish landed at the area was estimated at RM42.09 million, which amounted to 12.4 per cent of the total wholesale value of fish landings from the island, she added.
She said SAM has been consistent against land reclamation projects that damaged the environment.
On July 23, fishermen Mohd Maidin Abd Hamid, 63, crashed his boat into a buoy at a recmalation site in Pantai Jerejak while returning from sea about 1.30am.
He said his boat nearly overturned due to the impact, causing part of the fiber to dent. He also had to cut 10 pieces of his fishing nets which got stuck in the sand bank.
"There was no beacon lights whatsoever to serve as a safety precaution, which is clearly against the maritime law.
"I lodged complaints with the Marine Department and representatives the Penang government but none of them were of any help," he said when met near the reclamation site in Pantai Jerejak here today.
He estimated his losses to be at RM2,500, not including loss of income. Maidin said he has not been going to sea for more than two months now.
"I used to be able to fish for priced white pomfret (bawal) and four-fingered threadfin (senangin). They are all gone now after the reclamation." he added.