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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Drivers and Impacts of IUU Fishing: A Case Study of Malaysia
There are many forms of IUU fishing evident in the east coast region of Peninsular Malaysia, including:
• violation of fishing licence conditions such as encroachment and use of unauthorised fishing gear;
• unlicensed fishing;
• unregulated and unreported harvest of lobster;
• IUU harvest and smuggling of cockle spat;
• IUU turtle egg harvest and unreported turtle by-catch;
• illegal harvest of arowana;
• IUU harvest of grouper fry;
• illegal fishing by foreign vessels;
• possible violent crime against fishing boats;
• illegal fishing within marine protected areas; and
• shark-fin fishing.
The drivers, pressures and impacts of IUU fishing include subtle influences such as cultural tolerance for rule bending; a highly developed respect for hierarchy; the role of ethnicity in market behaviour, and much more. However, some aspects of IUU fishing in the area are far from subtle, such as the smuggling of subsidised diesel fuel and fish, and possibly the trafficking of persons as forced labour on fishing boats.
For the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the cumulative impacts of such a wide array of IUU fishing activities are likely to be considerable for the economic and social well-being of coastal communities, the health of fish stocks, and the environment. Incompleteness and inconsistencies in fisheries catch data, the informal nature of traditional harvesting and fishing activities, and a rudimentary understanding only of fishing boat behaviour in the absence of a fully developed vessel monitoring system or observer program, combine to hinder a proper understanding of the issue by authorities and researchers alike.
Nevertheless, certain practices are well recorded in the public literature, and were known to occur off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia by those fisheries officials and industry representatives interviewed for this study. A number of factors, including a lack of resources, politics, lack of evidence, the scale and historically entrenched nature of the activities, and cultural acceptance of certain practices were all cited as obstacles to curbing IUU fishing in the area.
The financial loss to local communities from IUU fishing in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia is difficult to calculate, but can reasonably be demonstrated to be considerable. The financial loss from smuggled subsidised fuel alone is estimated conservatively to cost more than RM6 million per year. The smuggling of fish caught in Kelantan waters to Thailand is likely to represent a direct loss of at least RM72m per year (possibly much more) plus additional losses through wasted subsidised fuel, artificially inflated fish prices in local markets, lost fishing boat provisioning business, and unproductive capital expenditure on idle fish cold-store facilities. Other losses through ecosystem harm caused by IUU over-fishing and the use of inappropriate gear in delicate environments would involve extensive observational data and complex models to quantify; nevertheless, such losses can be accepted as occurring at a certain level.
At its most extreme, the possibility that Burmese refugees may be employed as forced labour on deep sea fishing vessels licensed by Malaysia but crewed and controlled by Thai interests, and that these crew may be subjected to abuse in the course of that employment, is abhorrent. Such a possibility, along with significant financial losses to the Malaysian economy, belie any suggestion that IUU fishing is a minor problem arising from an inefficient or poorly developed industry, or that it should be allowed to improve slowly with incremental advances in national development status.
See details for related event '5th International Forum on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing'
Link to document