PETALING JAYA - Malaysians are among the world's top fish consumers, eating at least 56.5kg of fish per person each year.
This statistic, said fishery products expert Infofish, was way above the world average of below 20kg per capita and even slightly ahead of Japan.
It said the major species consumed in Malaysia included mackerel (tenggiri), shrimp, squid, tilapia and catfish (keli).
Infofish yesterday released Malaysia's first comprehensive "Fish Supply-Demand Study", which also found that Malaysians were increasingly buying imported and more expensive "high-value fishery products" such as cod, salmon, mussels, oysters and abalone, pushing up the price of Malaysia's fish imports.
On average, Malaysian households spend about RM100 (S$38.61)a month to buy a variety of fish for home preparation, with mackerel, squid and shrimp the most popular varieties.
Malaysians also consumed more fish than any other meat such as beef or chicken, it said.
"A high percentage, 37 per cent, of consumers in Malaysia also eat fish and seafood on a daily basis and the majority, 54 per cent, eat fish once to three times a week," it said.
According to the survey, 56 per cent of consumers prefer to buy fish from traditional wet markets or pasar tani, citing higher quality and lower price as the top two reasons.
Almost half the respondents said they spent an average of RM20 to RM50 on fish during every shopping trip, while 23 per cent said they spent less than RM25.
Mackerel is the most popular fish among Malaysians, followed by squid, Asian seabass, grouper and shrimp.
"For Chinese consumers, salmon is the most preferred species, followed by grouper.
"Among the freshwater species, freshwater prawn (udang galah) is the most preferred among Malay consumers while tilapia is popular among Chinese and Indian consumers," it said.
However, the demand for fish in Malaysia, according to the survey, is expected to be almost stagnant or grow at a slower pace in the future, in line with population growth.
According to the Department of Statistics, the price of fish has increased by an average of 6.2 per cent each year since 2005.
Infofish Trade Promotion Unit chief Fatima Ferdouse said increasing costs related to fishing operations were among the major factors behind the increasing price of fish.