Dr Yii: Give special consideration for licence A and B fishermen to hire foreign workers

Sakak receives an assistance of RM34,000 from Dr Yii (centre) for members to purchase or upgrade their fishing equipment.

KUCHING, Feb 23: Owners of kotak fishing boats are appealing to the federal government to allow the hiring of foreign workers to catch fish at sea.

The Sungai Apong Kotak Fishermen Association (Sakak) has sought the assistance of Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii to look into the matter. According to the association, locals are not interested in taking the job. Hence the fishing boats could not go out to sea.

Dr Yii said he would raise the matter at the Dewan Rakyat in the next parliamentary sitting in March, for the government to give special consideration for fishermen with A and B licences to hire foreign workers.

“It is not that they (boat owner) do not want to go out to sea but they have no workers. They have been trying to hire locals but to no avail. Many of the our young generations are not interested in becoming fisherman because it is seen as a tough career that requires high physical resistance while at sea.

“Majority of the vessel owners are over 60 years old. Usually these kotak vessels will go out to the sea for a bout seven days, hence they are unable to go out to the sea on their own and therefore they need to hire workers or helpers,” he told reporters after visiting the association here today.

Dr Yii added that the type of nets allowed for these kotak boats are drift nets, where each boat would require at least two workers at sea.

However, under Section 10(1)C of Fisheries Act, licensee A and B holders are prohibited from hiring foreign workers.

The DAP lawmaker said he supported the Act, to protect or secure job opportunity for locals, but he will seek special consideration for this fisherman group.

“We will seek for a special consideration from the relevant ministry to allow fishermen of these two licences to hire foreign workers under certain conditions.

“One of the conditions which we will recommend to the ministry is that licensees or owner must be on the boat throughout the time the vessel is out on the sea with the hired foreign workers,” he said.

Licensee A is only allowed to fish at two nautical miles and above, while licensee B is allowed to fish at a distance of five nautical miles and above, he explained.

Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong, who was also at the press conference, said these kotak boats are fast diminishing from Sungai Apong fishing village.

“During the 80’s, there are over 100 colourful kotak vessels clustering along the shores, but they are getting less now due to competition and powerful modern fishing vessels.

“Although Sakak has about 80 members, only 17 to 20 kotak vessels are actively going out to the sea because they don’t have enough workers.

Yong said she will also assist Sakak members to apply for the “Bantuan Touch Point” under the Fisheries Department.

The assistance ranges from nets, fishing signal lights, GPS equipment, safety buoys, live jackets, engines and others to help ease the burden of fishermen. — DayakDaily