Fish still available in many Malaysian markets despite fishermen strike

PETALING JAYA - Some six days into a nationwide fishermen strike, there is still fish to be found in many of the markets, although the supply of other seafood such as prawns and crabs has seen a slight drop.

In George Town, a check by The Star showed that most fishmongers at the Chowrasta market were not increasing their prices as fish supplies were still coming in.

Fishmonger Syed Abdullah Abdul Jabbar said the effect from the strike would only be felt in a week's time when most fishermen should be back.

"I am still receiving my usual supply of bream, Indian mackerel and others from my suppliers in Batu Maung here and Thailand," he said when met at the Chowrasta market here yesterday.

He said the prices of large prawns had increased to RM52 (S$20.33) per kg from between RM42 and RM47 during Deepavali due to the low catch and high demand.

Fish farm owner Lai Lee Yean said she had not been receiving her supply of fishermen's bycatch for feed since the strike began on Friday.

"I normally buy the bycatch for between 70 sen and RM1 per kg. Commercial fish food is much more expensive at RM90 for a 20kg pack," she said.

Over at the Air Itam wet market, Lee Meng Leang, 47, said he was only affected in terms of small fishes like mackerel, and other seafood like squids and prawns.

"The shortage has cost me quite a lot as many Indian families were looking for these items during Deepavali," he said.

Fishermen in Perak, Selangor and Penang had gone on strike to oppose new regulations, including a stipulation that their nets should have a mesh size of 38mm.

The regulations, which were included in the Fisheries Act 1985, were only implemented last Friday, the day the trawler fishermen went on strike.

In Klang, fishmongers were fretting that there was too much fish in the wet market but very few customers.

"Where are the people? There is no shortage of fish but instead a shortage of people to buy the fish we are selling," said Klang Market Stall Holders' Association deputy president Tee Khay Boon, who is also a fishmonger.

He said shoppers might not be buying fish due to the assumption that prices were high from the publicity created by the strike.

He gave the assurance that vendors and fishmongers would not face any shortage as they also imported fish from Thailand and Indonesia.

"If there is really a serious shortage, we can even import frozen fish from India," he said.

However, Kala Harikrishnan, who sold fish at a makeshift stall on the main road to Carey Island in Jenjarom, said she had not been getting any sea crab since the strike was called.

Pulau Ketam MCA branch chairman Chia Mong Chun said only a handful of the trawler fishermen had resumed fishing after Nov 5.

"Those who have gone back made up less than 10 per cent of the boats docked at Pulau Ketam. Most of them are not going to sea yet until the Government comes up with a solution," he said.