KUALA LUMPUR: The destruction of fish breeding grounds and lack of safety are the main issues that worry fishermen once the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project is launched, according to Penang Fishermen Association chairman Nazri Ahmad.
He said the state government and Fisheries Department had spent huge sums of money to create artificial reefs that mimic fish breeding grounds in a cove area and this was now being threatened by the reclamation project.
He said fishermen were already seeing the success from the artificial reef project as there was a lot more of fish to catch.
“It doesn’t make any sense that they want to destroy this area after spending money to turn it into a breeding ground,” he told reporters after leading several hundred fishermen from Penang and Perak on a march from the National Monument to Parliament in a protest against the PSR, as well as large-scale sand mining off the northern coast of Perak.
In an immediate reaction, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government would look into their complaint.
Nazri said the fishermen feared that marine creatures such as fish, crabs and shrimps, would disappear once work on the project started and that would have a huge impact on the fishermen’s income.
He said a cove in the area served as a sanctuary for fishermen in the event of a storm in nearby Pulau Kendi.
“If the project proceeds, we will no longer have any shelter,” he added.
He said the expected increase in sea traffic when work on the project begins could raise the risk of collisions among vessels, thus endangering the smaller fishing boats.
In a memorandum that the fishermen wanted to hand over to the prime minister, it was stated that the livelihood of 10,000 fishermen would be affected by the project.
Several MPs also took time out from proceedings in the Dewan Rakyat to show their support to the protesters.
The PSR is a reclamation project to create islands covering 4,500 acres off the southern coast of Penang. The islands will be sold to raise money to fund the state’s RM46 billion Transport Master Plan.