Reef ball project boosts fish haul for Igan, Mukah fishermen

Hard coral ‘Acropora cervicornis’ (Staghorn coral) on an artificial reef ball.

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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, Dec 2: Daily minimum catches by fishermen along Igan and Mukah shores have increased by up to five kilogrammes thanks to the Sarawak government-funded reef ball planting programme.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said daily catches by coastal fishermen in Igan had increased from 10 to 15 kilogrammes at most, while in Mukah the number has increase from 15 to 20 kilogrammes.

“Reef balls when mature essentially become the houses of fishes, where they lay eggs. So, the State government wanted to help the fishermen so we planted reef balls in the waters.

“And based on statistics from the fishermen, their catches have increased including in Mukah up to Sebuyau. When fish increase and the catches increase, the income of our fishermen increases as well.

“Meaning to say, the State government has managed to increase the income of coastal fishermen with the RM70 million reef ball planting programme,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) chief executive officer (CEO) Zolkipli Mohamad Aton said the corporation has successfully planted a total of 12,922 artificial reef units in Sarawak waters, which is 77 per cent of the 16,800 targeted units.

In May 2021, he said, a total of 1,500 artificial reef units were planted in the sea waters from Paloh to Pulau Bruit and next year, SFC will continue planting 1,800 units from Mateding to Bintulu and another 1,200 units from Bintulu to Niah.

“When all these reef balls are planted, Sarawak waters will achieve a record of being the longest reef ball area (sic) in the world,” he said during the reef ball planting ceremony at Pulau Bruit here today.

Other than benefitting fishermen, Zolkipli said reef ball planting can also encourage nearby eco-tourism activities such as sport fishing and scuba diving.

Cultivation of reef balls is also known to be a passive enforcement measure to deter foreign trawlers from fishing in prohibited zones. — DayakDaily