Malaysia: Angling for the apex predator

NIK NAIZI HUSIN The Star 24 Nov 16;

ROMPIN: Anglers were happy to see the billfish thriving in its habitat off the coast of Rompin during the recent Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge.

Some 200 anglers from all over the world took part in the annual catch-and-release concept competition.

It is considered the largest fishing competition in Malaysia while also conserving the billfish population.

The competition was more focused on promoting fishing as a sport and also a tourism attraction.

Based on the number and range of participants, the competition had undoubtedly benefited fishing boat operators, fishing tackle shops and also local small and medium scale traders.

According to state Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Johari Hussain, the number of participants had grown from strength to strength as there were only four boats and 12 participants in 2004.

“The number of both participants and boats keeps on growing. This year, a total of 50 boats were hired and a few more were used for other needs during the competition.

“In conjunction with Visit Pahang Year 2017, the competition to be held next year is expected to receive a few hundred more participants as it will be held on a grand scale with more attractive prizes,” he said.

The participants came from 17 countries including the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, China, Japan, Germany, India, Brunei, New Zealand, the United States, Belgium, Canada, Britain, Norway, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

Tourism and Culture Ministry Pahang office director Idros Yahya said Rompin is a fishing haven for anglers and local fishermen.

Idros said previously, boats hired for participants had to come from Johor, Malacca and Port Klang because there were insufficient vehicles available for rent locally.

“Now, there are 50 speedboats available for rent while the boat operators and angling shops keep mushrooming as there is high demand from anglers, mainly from Singapore.

“They have fun catching and releasing the billfish because it is not suitable to be eaten. At the same time they can also catch other fish such as kerapu, kembong and jenahak.

“For the government, the billfish competition has created community-based tourism. Other tourism and food operators can also thrive with the increased demand,” Idros said.

Muadzam Shah assemblyman Datuk Maznah Mazlan, who also took part in the competition, said that more artificial reefs should be placed in the area to attract more fish species which are the billfish’s food.

The sea off Rompin, where the competition was held, is a natural migration route for the billfish species (Istiophorus platypterus) on their way from the northern hemisphere to Australia.

The active migration period of the billfish, such as marlin and sailfish, is from March to September.

One of the reasons for their presence in the area is the abundance of anchovies and other small fish which they can feed on.

The reefs at Rompin, namely Karang (Reef) DO (District Office), Karang Cha, Karang Batu Mati, Karang Buru, Karang Luas, Batu Berhala, Karang Rompin, Batu Saga and Tukun Tayar provide some of the best resting places for the billfish before they move on.

During the competition, team Rompin Ocean 1, comprising Daryl Jes Ch’ing (Malaysia), Tan Chow Wee and Jason Tan (both Singaporeans), emerged as the champion and received RM20,000, trophies and fishing equipment.

First runner-up was team Penn Battle (Charles Lee Khoon, Ray Ong Swee (both Singaporeans) and Gerard Lee Ee (United States). They received RM14,000, trophies and equipment.

Third place went to team Sail Slayer, comprising members Chris Dann (British), Peter Sidaros (US) and Scott Beamner (Canada).

They bagged RM10,000, trophies and other fishing equipment as prizes.

Rompin MP Datuk Hasan Arifin launched the competition while Mohd Johari presented the prizes.