KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Junz Wong (pic) said the problem of rampant fish blasting/bombing activities in the State’s waters can be minimised, if not totally eradicated, once the socio-economic conditions of the State’s fishing community have improved.
Thus, he said, Sabah needs a far more holistic plan for improving the socio-economic conditions of the fishing community in the State, which his ministry through the State Fisheries Department is currently working on, in collaboration with the United Nations and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“The current study on the socio-economic conditions of the State’s fishing community will help in formulating the required holistic plan for improving the fishermen’s socio-economic conditions.
“This will also help to resolve other problems related to this community, including fish blasting/bombing.
“However, the study project which started last year presently faces a setback due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak as it involves international experts whose travelling is affected by the outbreak.
“But we want this study to continue and hope it can be completed this year. When it is completed, we will sit down together and form a committee to come up with a holistic plan as I have mentioned. But (while waiting for the process to be completed) this does not mean we do not take action to stop fish bombing and catch those involved.
“That is what I want to point out. We need a holistic approach to the problem and not about fish bombers are mostly kids,” Wong said.
He said this in response to former Chief Judge of Malaysia Tan Sri Richard Malanjum who ticked him off for making light of the serious fish-bombing problem plaguing Sabah by saying those involved were just children.
“It is okay if there are people who cannot accept the fact that there are many teens involved in fish bombing, but the main point is we need a more holistic approach to resolve the problem...that is my answer to them who have misunderstood the issue,” said Wong.
Malanjum, who is noted for his passion for the environment, said: “Fish bombing is still going on. Two weeks ago, at one of the islands, a Minister said ‘oh, all these are done by kids.’ Kids? They were still holding a bomb. So, kids can do bombing now! You can see the lame excuses given. It’s very, very sad.
“Bombs in the hands of kids are still bombs,” said Malanjum, in disbelief at the reasoning by Wong, at a session at the Borneo Colloquium on Environmental Justice 2020 at Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu.
Divers recently said they recorded no less than 80 incidences over six months of fish-bombs going off in Sabah’s waters. Some felt Sabah Parks was cheating the tourists by collecting a conservation fee from divers in Park areas but turning a blind eye to the problem.
Worse, they said, if they lose their hearing or their lives as happened last year to two China tourists and a diver who succumbed to internal organ injuries due to the impact of the blasts underwater off Semporna. Also blamed by the divers were the marine authorities, particularly MMEA.
Malanjum was referring to a statement by Wong on Jan 31 saying it was discovered during the ongoing in-depth study done by his ministry together with the UN and international NGOs that most of the fish bombers are kids aged below 15 and 16 with the youngest, 10.
Wong had said that the study, carried out since the tragedy involving two Chinese tourists and their local dive master by fish bombs while diving off Semporna in July last year, were looking at the socio-economic problems of the fishing community.
“It is very sad that the people continue to do so (fish bombing/blasting). It is even sadder that most of these fish bombers are kids. When we arrest them we don’t know where to put them, because they are kids.
“So it is a matter of coming up with a holistic approach which we are now working with the UN and some international NGOs to resolve the issue.
“But it is no excuse for us not to continue working hard to resolve this problem. To us, this is a bread and butter issue. So, if we can lift their (fishermen) living standard and resolve their socio-economic problems, it will very extensively and effectively resolve this issue,” said Wong, who is Tanjung Aru Assemblyman, when met at the One Place Mall’s Chinese New Year 2020 celebration then, when asked about the complaint by divers in social media about fish bombing within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, near here, which struck fear among divers and tourists.
He said they intend to form a committee soon on the socio-economic issue for fish bombing.
Sabah Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) Chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Haji Noor also urged the State Government to come up with serious measures to stamp out fish-bombing activities within its waters. He said the security authorities and Fisheries Department also needed to double up the enforcement of existing laws on this matter.