Malaysia: Cockle trade threatened

NEVILLE SPYKERMAN The Star 17 May 16;

PUTRAJAYA: The multi-million ringgit Malaysian cockle breeding industry is on the verge of collapse, and the Fisheries Department wants a ban on harvesting during peak spawning season to revive the swiftly falling numbers.

At its peak in 2005, Malaysia produced 100,000 tonnes of cockles for both local consumption and export.

But only 16,000 tonnes were harvested last year, in an industry now estimated to be valued at about RM160mil.

Ironically, Malaysia’s coastline is a fertile breeding ground for cockles.

Abu Talib Ahmad, senior director of research at the Fisheries Research Institute, said all three main cockle breeding states – Selangor, Perak and Johor – were affected by pollution which resulted in high mortality of cockles and spats (young cockles).

The impact is being felt by consumers who now have to pay between RM10 and RM15 per kilo compared to just RM2 and RM3 previously.

“This is a problem to consumers, especially those of us who usually eat char koay teow with kerang (cockles),” he said.

Recognising the importance of the food source and how it affected the livelihood of fishermen, the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) allocated RM500,000 for a year-long study on how to revive the industry in Selangor.

Abu Talib said Selangor had overtaken Perak as the main cockle breeding state but only a mere 3,327 tonnes were harvested last year compared to 40,000 tonnes during its peak.

Research carried out by the department with the support of Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Sciences recommended an annual “closed season” on cockle harvesting and permanent sites where harvesting is disallowed completely to allow natural spawning.

Abu Talib said these recommendations, part of an overall management plan, would only be implemented after getting the views of all stakeholders from fishermen and farmers right down to the char koay teow sellers.

The management plan also called on multi-agencies, including the Department of Environment, Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd, to check pollution which is causing the high mortality rate, especially in farms near the mouth of Sungai Buloh.

This management plan would eventually be replicated in Perak and Johor, he added.

If these measures fail, he warned Malaysia could end up producing cockle spats in the lab with technology as a last and more expensive resort.

Selangor cockle research project chief Dr Alias Man described the cockle industry as “surviving” but was optimistic it could be revived.

He said cockles spawned all year but the peak seasons were between May and July, and between September and November.

Doing away with year-long harvesting will maximise spawning, while permanent protected areas will preserve spawning stocks.

Dr Alias explained that upon spawning, cockle larvae drifted with the sea currents for 29 to 30 days before they settled on mud flats or spat falls where they are collected by local fishermen and sold to cockle farms.

In Thailand, the currents are too strong and the spat falls are plentiful in the west coast of Malaysia. This makes smuggling the spats out to Thailand a lucrative business.

There were 33 cases of spat smuggling last year with the largest haul valued at RM300,000. In 2014, there were 35 cases.


Village leader hails move to check dwindling cockle numbers
ALLISON LAI The Star 17 Apr 16;

KLANG: Kampung Bagan Sungai Yu Baru village headman Sow Eng Guan has lauded the authorities’ attempt to help revive the dwindling number of cockles.

However, he also noted that such efforts must be done properly with planning and site surveys, and take into consideration possible drawbacks on farmers’ livelihood.

“It usually takes between 10 months and a year for spats to grow sufficiently in size for harvest.

“The time frame would depend on how fertile the mud is and also the sea conditions,” he said.

Sow, who has been a cockle farmer for over 20 years, said that banning harvest during the peak periods was not a feasible move as cockles spawn all year round and most farmers deposit the spats in batches throughout the peak periods.

“With that, the harvest time for each batch could be different.

“Considering other factors such as the current and mud fertility, not all cockles can be harvested the same time.

“So, banning harvest during a particular time could make life difficult for farmers,” he said.

Apart from strengthening enforcement to curb rampant cockle thefts at farms, Sow said the authorities, such as the Fisheries Department should consider bringing existing farms closer to the shore to increase the shellfish produce.

“Farmers used to have their cockle farms near the shore some 20 years ago until the authorities decided to delineate the farms according to lots and brought them further out to sea.

“That decision has cost the industry in the long run because the mud is harder, hence discouraging cockle growth. Mud closer to the shore is soft and allows cockles to breathe and produce bigger and better cockles,” he added.

Cockle farmer Ab Aziz Selamat said he was open to the recommendations by the Fisheries Department.

He said the major problems they faced were pollution and a shortage of spats.

The 57-year-old fisherman, who has been farming cockles near Sungai Janggut in Kuala Selangor, wanted authorities to protect spat falls from being plundered.

He said boats with Thai and Cambodian crews were illegally harvesting the spats.


Fewer cockles in hawker dishes due to shortage
The Star 18 May 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The shortage of fresh cockles has badly affected hawkers, especially those selling char koay teow and curry mee here.

Peace and Joy Coffee Shop owner Cheong Kwai Foong said she was forced to reduce the number of cockles served in her curry mee.

“I used to put about eight cockles per serving but now it is less than five.

“The price has gone up by about 40% as I’m buying a kilo of cockles for RM28. It used to be about RM20 last year,” she said at her shop in Queen Street yesterday.

Char koay teow seller Leow See Kok said that he had stopped using cockles in his dishes for the past year because they were getting more expensive.

“The quality of the cockles has also dropped.

“I have opted to leave it out of my dishes, even though cockles are a compulsory ingredient for fried koay teow. I have not received any complaints from customers,” he said.

The Star reported yesterday that the multi-million ringgit Malaysian cockle breeding industry is on the verge of collapse.

At its peak in 2005, Malaysia produced 100,000 tonnes of cockles for both local consumption and export.

But only 16,000 tonnes were harvested last year in an industry now estimated to be valued at about RM160mil.

Abu Talib Ahmad, senior director of research at the Fisheries Research Institute, had said that all three main cockle breeding states – Selangor, Perak and Johor – were affected by pollution, which in turn resulted in high mortality of cockles.

No comments:

Post a Comment