Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (3rd-left) cuts a fish while Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin (2nd-right) looks on during the World Seafood Congress 2019 in Bayan Baru. -NSTP/Danial Saad

GEORGE TOWN: Malaysian fishermen have been urged to venture into aquaculture because of significant drop in captured fisheries' resources which has increased demand for marine products.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin said captured fisheries' resources were decreasing at an alarming rate.

This, he said, was why the government had put in place numerous conservation efforts and implemented certain policies to reduce over-fishing.

"Eventually, we have to move on to aquaculture. At this point, only Penang has reached 50 per cent aquaculture and 50 per cent captured fisheries.

"As far as other states are concerned, they are way below the targeted 50 per cent stage. So we need to encourage more states to approve and take up temporary occupation licences (TOL) for aquaculture.

"This is where the ministry is coming in to push more fishermen to venture into aquaculture industry," he said after the launch of the World Seafood Congress 2019 here today.

The three-day event, which has attracted the participation of 41 countries, was officiated by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

At present, Malaysia is one of the major producers of marine products, ranking 16th in the world in terms of fish caught from captured fisheries (1.47 million metric tonnes worth RM10.8 billion) and the 6th in Asean.

Malaysia also ranks 15th and 6th in aquaculture production (427,022.66 metric tonnes worth RM3.041 billion) in the world and Asean respectively.

The country's main marine commodity includes fresh and processed fish (freshwater fish 102,596.84 metric tonnes worth RM728 million), marine fish/prawn 121,460.24 metric tonnes worth RM2.268 million), seaweed products (202,965.58 metric tonnes worth RM44.7 million) and ornamental fish (281 million pieces worth RM283 million).

Sim said Penang had captured more than half of the market share in the RM3 billion aquaculture industry.

Overall, Penang produced 47,742 metric tonnes of fishery products worth RM1.67 billion last year, more than half of the country's overall total.

However, he said the Lekima typhoon which struck northern states recently had caused damage to the aquaculture industry, with losses estimated to be over RM50 million.

Sustainable fisheries development, according to Sim, has, therefore, become increasingly important to ensure the availability of sufficient food supply at affordable prices.

It is also an important generator of economic and social progress for the rural poor, he said.

"In Malaysia, various management strategies had been formulated and implemented to control fishing effort and promote sustainability and conservation of marine resources and ecosystems. To have full integration of aquatic resource management in Malaysia, the management and administration of marine parks which is one form of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are being placed under the Department of Fisheries. To date, we have established several types of MPAs such as Marine Parks, Refugia and Conservation Zone.

"Other measures include restriction of fishing by licencing fishing gear and fishing vessels, identification of nursery areas that should be protected and managed to ensure the survival of juveniles of commercially important fish species, establishment of strict enforcement on regulations which address the issue of illegal fishing, rehabilitation of resources through the deployment of artificial reefs and coral rehabilitation programmes and conservation of the biodiversity of marine ecosystems.

"Many aspects of the fisheries industry need enhanced scientific knowledge and technological advancement to become a sustainable source of food and an income generator.

"In fact, moving towards a sustainable future requires innovative thinking as well as global knowledge," he said.