Is a property boom in Malaysia causing a fisheries bust?

    • Driven by high demand for housing, developers in Malaysia’s Penang Island are artificially expanding the coastline and planning to construct new islands.
    • Local fishers say building works have already damaged their livelihoods, and fear further construction will destroy their fishing grounds.
    • Mangroves and endangered bird species are also threatened, and the mining and transport of construction materials could spread adverse environmental impacts beyond just Penang.

 

PENANG, Malaysia — Fisherman Liew Hock Choon, 50, cut the outboard engine and explained that we have arrived at the position of one of his fish traps. “No GPS,” he said.

Using a method called triangulation, his keen eyes pinpointed natural markers on the shoreline and used these bearings to locate his traps with incredible accuracy. With an anchor thrown down, he snagged his trap and hauled it up. The deck was soon awash with flapping fish. These are grouper — prized in the restaurants of Penang and beyond, they fetch a premium price and can only be caught with hooks or traps, Liew explained. He said customers travel from as far as Hong Kong to buy these prized delicacies.

“Look at this mud in the traps,” Liew complained as just two of his four traps contained a catch worth keeping. Still, it was a good day under the circumstances. One phone call later and the 11 kilograms (24 pounds) of grouper were snapped up by a restaurant owner eager to purchase them for over 500 ringgit ($113). They were still alive when Liew delivered and weighed them while hungry customers looked on.

“I know this area very well because in my school days I followed one of the fishermen,” said Liew, from Tanjung Bungah a village North of Penang Island’s capital Georgetown. Now the days of his fishing grounds are numbered because of a land reclamation project by a local property developer.

“This area is very rich with mud crab, shrimp, snapper, and grouper, but soon it will all be gone,” said Liew.


Published on Mongabay.com

  • Penang_Reclamation_01
    Penang fisherman Mr Liew Hock Choon, 50, is from Tanjung Bungah a village North of Penang Island’s capital Georgetown. Here he prepares his fishing boat to go a collect his fish traps in the reclamation area. Land reclamation for infrastructure projects and property is becoming more widespread in Asia. On Penang island schemes are increasing, especially to build high class housing. The projects require large volumes of building materials, especially sand, and have an impact on the environment especailly marine biodiversity. The livelihoods of local fisherfolk are particularly impacted.
  • Penang_Reclamation_02
    Reclamation building works underway as part of a new island being constructed by the seri Tanjung Pinang company with Chinese expertise. Here a workman inspects the sand reclamation at the edge of the new island.
  • Penang_Reclamation_03
    Penang fisherman Mr Liew Hock Choon, 50, is from Tanjung Bungah a village North of Penang Island’s capital Georgetown. Here he pulls up a fish trap full of prized grouper fish. His fishing grounds are on the site of a giant land reclamation site which will see them covered by a new island made of sand.
  • Penang_Reclamation_04
    Reclamation building works underway as part of a new island being constructed by the Seri Tanjung Pinang company, a subsidiary of Oriental and Eastern company. Land reclamation for infrastructure projects and property is becoming more widespread in Asia. On Penang island schemes are increasing, especially to build high class housing.
  • Penang_Reclamation_06
    Penang fisherman Mr Liew Hock Choon, 50, is from Tanjung Bungah a village North of Penang Island’s capital Georgetown. Here he delivers his catch of 11 kilos of prized grouper fish to a local restaurant keen to buy them.
  • Penang_Reclamation_08
    Mr Kamaruddin, 70, is fixing his net on the beach next to his home at Tanjung Tokong, Penang Island. Land reclamation for infrastructure projects and property is becoming more widespread in Asia.
  • Penang_Reclamation_09
    A cat sits in fisherman Mr Kamaruddin's net on Tanjung Tokong beach, north of Penang capital Georgetown. The beach sits amidst large-scale land reclamation projects.
  • Penang_Reclamation_10
    Mr Kamaruddin, 70, is fixing his net on the beach next to his home at Tanjung Tokong, Penang Island.
  • Penang_Reclamation_11
    A horseshoe crab in a tank at Tanjung Tokong, Penang, Malaysia. Until five years ago Mr Kamaruddin used to keep crabs in a net in the sea but then they started to die from the muddy sediment in the water stirred up by reclamation construction work.
  • Penang_Reclamation_12
    Fisherman Mr Mohd-Ishak (left) is Chairman of the Northern Fishing Community Group of Tanjung Tokong on Penang Island. On Penang island schemes are increasing, especially to build high class housing. The projects require large volumes of building materials, especially sand, and have an impact on the environment especially marine biodiversity. The livelihoods of local fisherfolk are particularly impacted.
  • Penang_Reclamation_13
    Two girls playing on Tanjung Tokong beach on Penang Island Malaysia, with fishing boats behind. The beach is surrounded by a large land reclamation scheme which is affecting the fishery and fishermen are complaining that catches are down.
  • Penang_Reclamation_16
    People walk past a row of rickshaws in Georgetown, capital of Penang Island in Malaysia. Parts of the old colonial Chinatown have been awarded UNESCO world heritage status.
  • Penang_Reclamation_17
    A shopkeeper stands amidst piles of old ephemera in a junkshop in old Georgetown, capital of Penang Island in Malaysia. Parts of the old colonial Chinatown have been awarded UNESCO world heritage status.


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