It’s ‘raining prawns’ in Penang but fishermen in Selangor report normal catches

Fish sellers arranging their seafood at Cecil Street Market, Penang. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PENANG – For those raising eyebrows over the prices of various meats, here is some good news.

Catches by fishermen in Penang are pouring in, sometimes so much that even storing them has become a challenge. Large shrimps are especially plentiful, followed by silver pomfret.

“During low seasons, we would receive only between 50kg and 60kg of prawns from fishermen each day,” said a fishmonger who wanted to be known only as Siang at Penang’s Cecil Street Market.

“Since end-January, we have received much more, averaging between 100kg and 200kg and up to 500kg daily,” he added.

Mr Siang said fishmongers are committed to buy everything caught by the inshore fishermen, which has led to another challenge of storing them.

“Due to tremendous supply, we reduced the price of large prawns from RM60 (S$18) per kg to as low as RM53 per kg so that people will buy more,” he noted.

“Our freezer storage is quickly filling up. We had not seen such good harvests from the sea in the past 10 years.

“Hopefully, the stock would help us survive through bad seasons when harvests are low.”

Inshore fishermen in the south of Penang island confirm that catches have been good, particularly for large prawns and also “everyday fish” like cencaru (torpedo scad, popularly stuffed with sambal belacan and fried).

Balik Pulau fisherman Pak Wan said he had not seen prawns in his nets for over a year but they started returning about two weeks ago.

“Fishermen in Balik Pulau waters had not caught prawns for over a year and had to travel up to 18km to Teluk Kumbar to catch them,” he added.

“Since about two weeks ago, we started seeing their return and now a boat of three fishermen who spend between four and five hours at sea can return with at least 20kg of prawns.

“This is good news for us as we missed out on the catches during the Chinese New Year season.”

A fisherman in Sungai Batu, who wanted to be known only as Ahmad, said the season this year is better than that in previous years.

“I got roughly 25 per cent more catches this season, from January to March.

“Not just me, many other fishermen here are also rejoicing over the rise in catches,” he added.

Penang Fisheries Department director Yazeereen A. Bakar said the increase in fishes and prawns is typically seasonal each year.

“Usually, the season in which they lay eggs will be around September and the new spawn reaches mature size between March and June,” she noted.

“Fishermen associations have given feedback that they can now breathe a sigh of relief and help to recover losses from poor seasons in the past.

“As there is more to catch, some fishermen are going out to sea more often... Any surplus would be stored in freezers to help keep supplies stable during shortages.”

Ms Yazeereen, however, said this year’s yield from the sea remains unpredictable as Penang’s haul saw a dip in 2021 compared with previous years.

“In 2020, about 58,000 tonnes of fish landed but the amount dropped to only 38,000 tonnes in 2021.

“We landed up to 70,000 tonnes a year in the past before rapid development around our sea started,” she added.

The seas, however, have not been as bountiful for another state – Selangor.

Selangor Fisheries director Noraisyah Abu Bakar said catch reports from inshore fishermen in Sekinchan and Kuala Selangor have been normal, and some observed that catches have been a little low.

“We confirm that in January, Selangor fishermen enjoyed super-abundant catches of kembong (Indian mackerel). But that season has passed.

“Natural seafood resources move up and down the Strait of Malacca with the seasons. It is never the same between states,” she noted. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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