PETALING JAYA- The illegal salvage work on sunken ships off Penang island has outraged anglers, fishermen and historians in the state, with many condemning the move to remove the wrecks.
'The shipwrecks have been a lifeline to the many small-time fishermen around Penang who use hand-lines to make a living. They are rich fishing grounds," said local fisherman Ahmad Kamal.
"We can make between RM250 and RM350 on a single outing to the sites on a good day. Today, many of us have lost much of our income due to the illegal salvage work to remove the wrecks which have destroyed marine life around it."
Andrew Barber, historian and author of Penang at War, said the illegal activities had destroyed the state's history, as the Kuma was known to be a war grave for families of Japanese sailors who died in the battle of Penang during World War II.
He said although the grave has not been officially declared a war memorial, Japanese families would return to the site annually to perform simple rituals and prayers for their loved ones who died at sea.
He said the government should step up efforts to preserve and conserve underwater war memorials in Malaysia instead of allowing it to be plundered.
Pulau Betong state assemblyman Muhamad Farid Saad also said the collection of scrap metal had affected the livelihood of about 4,500 fishermen in the area.
"I have received complaints from fishermen and anglers who claim that the collection of scrap metal from the sunken ships had resulted in poor catch.
"As such, I want the authorities responsible to investigate the matter to protect marine life and the livelihood of the fishermen," he told a media conference yesterday.