Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Waging war against encroachment

Teluk Kumbar is a small fishing village on the southern part of Penang Island which consists of nearly 200 inshore fishermen, mainly Malay and Chinese. 
Teluk Kumbar used to be rich in marine life and making a living out of fishing seems effortless before the encroachment by commercial trawlers nearly 40 years ago.

Teluk Kumbar inshore fishermen share the same fate as their fellow fishermen from Pulau Betong. The only difference is the frequency of such encroachment has reduced in Pulau Betong due to frequent "community policing".

The inshore fishermen around the southern part of Penang have suffered abuses and threats from commercial trawlers and the authorities. Some inshore fishermen's boats were rammed because they took photos of the trawlers registration for reporting purposes. Some were challenged to fight at sea.

Commercial trawlers are prohibited by law to fish within the 5 nautical mile radius from the shores as the area is reserved for inshore fishermen. But yet, the invasion continues everyday and night. 

In order to be invisible during the night, the trawlers encroach these fishing grounds without switching on their lights or signals.

This has caused serious accidents where small boats were dragged down because they accidentally cross the floating lines dragged by the trawlers.

Despite the presence of a Fisheries office nearby, the inshore fishermen of Teluk Kumbar have no high hopes of getting any kind of enforcement from the government agency. They said that the office by the beach is frequently used as a beach house for the officers' family during the weekend.

Video by Jimmy Leow

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