Fish getting more expensive to eat

By Lim Sue Goan

MALAYSIA - Like many others, I love eating fish and have been affected by the nationwide strike carried out by deep-sea fishing trawler operators.

The government has to cut the fuel subsidy for deep-sea vessels C2 because the burden is too heavy and some fishermen have actually sole subsidised fuel to gain profits.

Meanwhile, the operators said that they would have to lose about RM10,000 (S$4,064) every time they go to sea for fishing after the subsidy cut. They have no choice but to carry out the strike as they cannot afford the loss.

The problem is, a short period of strike would not affect much as imports from Thailand could be increased while there are also reserves to temporarily meet local demand.

The strike would be effective only if it continues for a long period of time. However, how long could the involved fishermen survive without earnings?

Even if over a thousand of them wish to join other industries, many of them have already been in their middle age and it might not be easy for them to switch career paths.

Most importantly, they must resolve the crux of the problem, overcome the impacts brought by high oil prices and resume work.

Under the "People First" concept of governance, the authorities should also change their attitude and help fishing operators resolve the problems. If the fishing industry collapses, it would undermine national interests. Importing fish from neighbouring countries is, after all, not a long-term solution.

There are two factors causing the plight of fishing operators, namely backwardness and soaring costs.

Fisheries is part of the agricultural sector. Since the whole agricultural sector is falling behind, there is no exceptional for the fisheries.

I can still recall that during the administration of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the government encouraged deep-sea fishing. A Malaysia - Thailand joint deep-sea fishing company was set up with a vow to adopt Thai fishing technology and provide training for local fishermen.

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