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KUCHING (May 25): Sarawak has huge inland water bodies with almost 150,000 hectares that can be developed for commercial aquaculture projects to generate export earnings, says Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.

“AIZ is aimed to provide designated areas for both lands and water bodies to develop the fisheries sector away from traditional practices towards larger commercial ventures that will be enabled by the private sector,” he said when delivering his ministry’s winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting today.

He told the august House that to date, the total fisheries production land area is estimated to be around 1,233 hectares involving 8,273 licenced ponds.

“There are also around 16,000 cages in our lakes and rivers with an estimated average annual production of over 9,800 metric tonnes,” he said.

He also said that there are currently 4,302 registered fisheries players including 52 licensed shrimp farmers in Sarawak.

“In 2020, Sarawak exported 4,345 metric tonnes of shrimp with a value of RM109 million to major countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Singapore, Middle East Countries and European Union,” he added.

Dr Rundi pointed out that to date, there are three highly potential areas with an estimated size of 2,430 hectares that have been developed, namely AIZ Batang Ai, AIZ Sundar Awat-Awat and AIZ Rambungan in various stages.

“AIZ Sundar Awat-Awat and AIZ Rambungan are for shrimp and seabass production and AIZ Batang Ai for red tilapia production.

“To date, there are around 136 smallholders and a leading private company that has been in operation in AIZ Batang Ai. The private company has 4,000 cages, processing, storing and fish fry production facilities with an estimated RM10 million investment value,” he said.

”PPNS has also formed a joint venture company with a leading local private company to develop 94 new ponds at a 284-hectare AIZ Rambungan for shrimp farming.

“Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, the federal government has developed 30 new cage culture farmers for sea bass rearing in AIZ Sundar Awat-Awat whereas under 12th Malaysia Plan, the federal government has approved a sum of RM20 million to the Department of Agriculture Sarawak to pursue the development of these AIZs,” he said.

“To achieve this target, my Ministry will continue to attract the private sector to invest in the fisheries industry through the provision of basic infrastructure and facilities and technical support,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Rundi said the Government is planning to establish the Department of Fisheries Sarawak (DOF Sarawak) to accelerate and regulate the development of the fisheries industry in the state.

“Currently, the development of inland fisheries comes under the Department of Agriculture Sarawak, while marine fisheries is managed by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia.

“The proposed establishment of DOF Sarawak is expected to drive the development of the fisheries industry towards making Sarawak as a major fisheries production hub in the region,” he said.

On a related matter, he said a committee will be set up to approve the issuance of deep-sea fishing licenses in Sarawak following the federal government’s recent decision to empower the Department of Fisheries Malaysia Sarawak Branch director to approve the issuance of this license.

Previously, the issuance of deep-sea fishing licenses would have to be approved by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia director-general.

Dr Rundi said the committee will be jointly chaired by DOF Malaysia, Sarawak branch director and his ministry’s permanent secretary.

“This empowerment is yet another achievement for Sarawak in terms of devolution of power under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) in safeguarding the interest of Sarawak,” he said.



State Farmers’ Organisation Sarawak | PPNS
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