Despite the various initiatives introduced by the government, response from today’s young entrepreneurs to venture into the fisheries sector has been lacklustre. This second of a two-part feature highlights government initiatives and proposals from the relevant parties to attract youth to the sector.
fforts by the government to produce the next generation of leaders capable of steering the fisheries sector to high growth have yet to boost youth participation in the sector, industry players said.
In Malaysia, the fisheries sector falls under the 3D category, a term commonly used to describe jobs that can potentially be dirty, dangerous and difficult, and they are often shun by the younger generation.
According to the National Fishermen’s Association (Nekmat), the government can change this negative perception among youth by providing opportunities for fishermen to own fishing boats through grants and other incentives.
Citing training schemes and existing fisheries institutes as the right platform towards this objective, Nekmat Chairman Abdul Hamid Bahari said he is confident these incentives would ensure these youth would not change their career path after completing their studies.
“Fisheries institutes are not merely centres of learning for youth; they should be supported with other incentives to retain youth interest in the industry, such as offering grants (for owning fishing boats).
“Once they realise that the fisheries industry can actually generate lucrative income, more youth would be drawn to the sector, which bodes well for the economy and the nation’s future,” he told Bernama.
local workers of fishery factory near Bagan Sekinchan
He said the government should also consider extending the grant or soft loan currently provided for agriculture entrepreneurs to youth interested in setting up their business in the fisheries industry including aquaculture.
“Inland fishing and aquaculture are alternatives for those who wish to gain early exposure in the fisheries industry without going out to sea.
“This way, we can help them develop their business acumen before expanding their activities by buying boats and other equipment (deep sea fishing) as well as having their own crew for their fishing operation.
“For better engagement, successful fishermen should be highlighted. Many fishermen have become millionaires, and they can share their success stories to inspire youth who are involved in training schemes or are pursuing their studies at fisheries institutes,” he added.
Statistics from the Department of Fisheries (DOF) in 2021 showed the fisheries subsector produced 1.75 million metric tons of edible fish valued at RM14.8 billion during that year. They accounted for 75 per cent of the total marine catch (worth RM10.8 billion) and 24 per cent of aquaculture worth RM3.43 billion, with 0.1 per cent or RM93 million of the total figures generated from inland fishing.
Abdul Hamid said the lack of skills at sea and the lack of interest among locals in the industry have indirectly opened job opportunities for foreigners, especially those who are tekongs (skippers) and awak-awak (crew) from Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia.
“The foreign fishermen are skilful boat handlers and are technologically adaptable to sophisticated equipment on board their vessels or boats, with the resilience to work long hours,” he said, adding that those below 40 years old accounted for 10 per cent of Nekmat members.
Based on statistics from DOF as at April 2023, a total of 12,603 foreign fishermen are with Temporary Employment Visit Passes (PLKS) under Section 60K, Employment Act 1955 nationwide.
According to DOF, it is mandatory for foreign fishing crew to have full PLKS starting Jan 1, 2022, to prevent the sea from being used by foreigners to enter the country.
The old jetty in Bagan Sekinchan, Selangor
SOPHISTICATED FOREIGN BOATS
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said it managed to seize tonnes of marine catch from foreign fishermen who encroached into the nation’s waters.
Its Acting Director-General Vice Admiral Datuk Saiful Lizan Ibrahim said the agency took a serious view the encroachment of foreign fishing boats in the country, adding that he did not dismiss the possibility of local employers paving way for such activities.
He said the encroachment by foreign fishing boats into Malaysian waters which saw the nation losing marine resources worth billions of ringgit annually, must be addressed as it also posed security risks for the country.
"Based on our observation, most foreign fishing boats seized during our operations were old and with poor communication facilities.
“But there were also those with sophisticated technology, especially boats from Vietnam. In fact, their fishing technology was far better compared to those used by local fishermen,” he added.
According to Director-General of Fisheries, Datuk Adnan Hussain, the department has developed training modules related to vessel operation and fishing at the fisheries institutes and training centres to attract interest in the sector.
"Vessel modernisation creates conducive working environment for participants who are also offered equitable minimum wage and marine catch incentives, together with programmes for their wellbeing.
"Salaries or wages are based on qualifications as being implemented in the commercial shipping sector.
"Besides that, attachment programmes for participants involved companies, operators and young entrepreneurs who have graduated from the Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah College, Perak and the Fisheries Academy (APM) in Kuala Terengganu.
Department of Fisheries Director-General, Datuk Adnan Hussain
He said for the period 2016 to 2022, APM has produced 391 graduates for the Certificate of Fisheries Technology while the Sultan Nazrin Shah College produced 603 graduates under the Capture Technology and Marine Aquaculture Programme.
The government, through the department, has introduced the Fisheries Certificate Programme in 2015 as part of a higher education initiative at the certificate level offered at APM and institutions of higher learning accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).
“The two-year programme combines academic knowledge and technology skills through four key disciplines, namely fisheries, aquaculture bio-security and post harvest products,” he said, adding that the target groups are those aged between 17 to 30 years old.
Besides free education fees, participants receive a monthly allowance of RM200 throughout the two year course, he said. Adnan said to encourage boat operators to use local workforce, the government has carried out several modular training programmes in vessel management and fishing for three months at the Sultan Nazrin Shah College.
“Among others, the Vessel Modernisation and Capture Mechanisation Programme for deep sea fishing (trawler) which focuses on the learning module for trawling, with value-add modules such as Fisheries Onboard (SIKAP) and swimming skills training as well as a one-month practical training on board trawler fishing vessels.
"This programme is conducted to attract locals aged between 17 to 40 years old to venture into the fisheries sector.
“Fees-free study is offered together with a monthly allowance of RM200 including free food and accommodation for participants throughout their training period,” he said.
Meanwhile, Reef Check Malaysia General Manager, Julian Hyde said it is relatively easy for foreign fishing boats to enter Malaysian waters and fish here as the coastline is long, making it difficult for patrolling as it involves huge resources for the country.
He said young people are not attracted to the fisheries industry due to the long hours of heavy labour fishermen had to undergo in the open sea.
"Young people are increasingly interested in less labour-intensive work, in the tourism industry or the emerging digital economy, for example.
"So it is no wonder that young people are turning away from fishing.
Reef Check Malaysia General Manager, Julian Hyde
"In the long run, this might even be good for coral reefs as with fewer coastal fishermen relying on reefs for food and livelihoods, the corals in fishing areas (which are also severely threatened by rapidly worsening environmental conditions) would be given some breathing space to recover," he said.
He said this in turn could help to support the pelagic fisheries, which rely on fish prey from coral reef areas.
"So actually, restricting fishing might not be a bad thing. Of course, our supply of fish for our diet would suffer, but perhaps this could be replaced either by more deepwater fishing, or maybe aquaculture," he said.
[“This report was made possible through the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government."]
Translated by Salbiah Said