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Friday, July 25, 2008

Fishermen grounded

Diesel quota slashed by half without notice; trawlers have not gone out to sea in last five days

Fshermen from Kuching and Samarahan divisions have not gone out to sea since five days ago because their subsidised diesel has run out.

Kuching Trawler Association secretary Kapitan Tan Boon Ting said the fishermen had finished their diesel quota for the month of July.

He claimed that without them knowing, their quota was slashed by half this month from 28,000 litres to just 14,000 litres.

Speaking to reporters at a jetty at Muara Tabuan where the fishing boats were stranded, Tan said some of the affected fishermen suspected that the remaining quota was diverted to fishermen operating in Tanjung Manis.

However, Sarawak Fisherman Association (Penesa) chairman Jamali Basri when contacted by The Borneo Post’s sister daily Utusan Borneo yesterday denied that the remaining quota was re-allocated.

“The issue does not exist, and the real fact is that Fishery Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) has reduced the amount for the quota from 13 million litres to 11 million litres for Sarawak.

“That is the reason there is a shortage of diesel for the fishermen of Sarawak. The problem is not only happening in Kuching and Samarahan divisions but also in Sibu,” he said.

He pointed out that LKIM was in charge of diesel subsidy and not Penesa.

LKIM Sarawak director Abdul Rahman Ellie could not be reached for comments yesterday.

“Problems like this happen because LKIM has always been treating Sarawak as an equal to West Malaysia when they should not. In West Malaysia the subsidy given never runs out and is usually smuggled,” Jamali stressed.

He said the quota for subsidised diesel for fishermen in Sarawak should be the same as Sabah. Sabah is currently receiving 15 million litres which is three million litres more compared to Sarawak.

Jamali wanted LKIM to look seriously into the diesel subsidy shortage.

“The government and LKIM should give the necessary attention to local fishermen especially now that there are foreign fishermen who are registered as locals just to get the subsidised diesel,” he said.

Jamali also asked LKIM to update the ‘Fleet Card’ system, saying local fishermen were facing problem of logistics.

“This (distance from diesel kiosks and bad roads) is another problem that coastal fishermen are facing, making it difficult for them to earn a living,” he said.

“I believe that if LKIM takes the time to find a solution or to update their system, the dissatisfaction of the group will be lessened.”

He added that in Sarawak there are currently 18,000 local fishermen.
Tan, meanwhile, explained that there were four different categories of licence for the fishermen – depending on diesel capacities.

The categories are ‘A’ for small boats or known as shore boats which receive a quota of 2,000 to 3,000 litres; ‘B’ for boats that go five to seven nautical, receiving 10,000 litres, ‘C’ (12,000 nautical), 24,000 litres; and ‘C2’ that go 30 and above nautical, 28,000 litres.

Tan said that Kuching and Samarahan divisions currently have 18 ‘Jurut’ boats (C), 108 trawler boats (C2), 101 box boat (B) and 672 village boats (A).

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