By Karen Bong
MUKAH, Sept 12: Some 600 reef balls planted along 3.2 kilometres of the northern waters from Pulau Bruit to Igan here will become the home to protect and guard fishes, especially the popular ‘terubok’ Batang Lasak, to breed and multiply so to sustain the fish population in Sarawak.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg emphasised that Sarawak’s coastal areas were rich with fishes and marine lives which have fallen prey to foreign encroachment.
“Vietnamese,Thais encroached into our waters and took our marine resources. What I fear most is, fishermen will be affected especially those working near to our beach and coastal areas.
“Who else did not know that terubok Batang Lasak can compete with terubok Saribas. So with the artificial reefs, it will not only serve as the homes for fishes to breed in a good environment but also a barrier to prevent encroachment by foreign vessels,” he addressed a symbolic ceremony to deploy artificial reef balls in the waters of Matu-Daro, here today.
With the huge and heavy Sarawak-made reef balls becoming the barrier, Abang Johari said that it will prevent foreign trawlers from attempting to encroach and enter into Sarawak waters.
“Moreover, it will also destroy their nets. They will not dare to approach,” he added.
With the completion of today’s project, Sarawak is also closer to setting the record of the longest artificial reefs in the world, hopefully by next year when all reef balls planting projects are completed.
After this, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) will proceed to planting reef balls from Santubong to Sematan and Sematan to Tanjung Datu involving some 900 units in respective areas.
Abang Johari emphasised that he had in 2018 approved RM70 million to plant 16,800 artificial reef balls on the seabeds of the state’s 1,000-km long coastal waters from Tanjung Datu to Lawas from 2018 to 2021.
“In the past, we used tyres but they were not reliable. So we decided to make our own artificial reefs so that we don’t have to rely on the Peninsula. When Datu Len (Talif Salleh) told me that it would involve a huge cost, I told him to proceed because we want to ensure the growth of marine lives in our waters,” he explained.
With the reef balls supporting the growth of marine life underwater, Abang Johari hoped that it will help fishermen double their catches, especially terubok fish which was very tasty, and subsequently increased their income.
Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government, he reaffirmed, remained committed to helping rural people including fishermen develop so they can thrive in rural communities.
“The longest natural coral reefs are in Australia. Even though ours are artificial ones, they will also help support the growth of natural corals and in turn provide a good environment for fishes to reproduce. This will definitely benefit local fishermen,” he added.
“I was made to understand that fishermen’s catches in Belawai have doubled, as those in Mukah. So I hope it will help fishermen here as well,” he said.
Abang Johari reiterated that the state government will continue to assist rural communities including fishermen such as with financial assistance to help them weather the monsoon season when they cannot go out to fish as well as other equipment.
At the ceremony, he also approved RM300,000 for the deepening and widening of Sungai Iran to facilitate fishing boats passing in and out to get to the sea.
“As for the installation of buoy with lights in the waters as markers for the safety and security of fishermen to guide their return home from fishing, just proceed, we (state government) will bear the cost as it is not that much,” he delivered the good news.
SFC chief executive officer (CEO) Zolkipli Mohamad Aton was present.-DayakDaily