Stock up on seafood for Chinese New Year before price doubles, Malaysian fishermen advise

Fish and prawns for sale at a wet market in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on July 4, 2022. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

GEORGETOWN - There’s still almost three months to Chinese New Year, but consumers are urged to start stocking up on seafood for their reunion feasts, as the erratic weather has made it difficult for Malaysian fishermen to go out to sea.

This is the advice from several fishermen associations from around the country.

Sekinchan Fishermen and Fish Traders Welfare Association Chia Choon Theng said the weather had turned erratic even though the north-east monsoon had not started.

This has caused deep-sea trawlers to reduce their trips out to sea from weekly to once every two weeks, or just once a month.

A trip to sea by a deep-sea trawler usually lasts five to seven days.

He advised customers to wrap seafood in layers of old newspaper to keep them fresh.

Although Deepavali has just ended and Christmas has not arrived, Mr Chia and his fellow fishermen have started thinking about fish that fetches high prices during Chinese New Year, which is about 10 weeks away.

The first day of the coming Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rabbit, will fall on Jan 22, 2023, with most families gathering for a reunion dinner one or two days before.

The fish in demand is the thick-bodied, white-grey pomfret, which is larger than the silver pomfret and has a finer meat texture than the common black pomfret.

Fishmongers and fishermen interviewed said it is now difficult to find the fish, called the Chinese Pomfret, Bawal Tambak or Tao Tai Chong in Cantonese, and warned that they may become more scarce during Chinese New Year.

Penang fishmonger Oh Puey Ping, 28, said Chinese Pomfret can only be caught during the fast-flowing currents of spring tides, around the first and 15th of every lunar month.

That leaves fishermen with no more than six possible trips left before Chinese New Year, weather permitting.

“The small ones can go for RM60 (S$18) per kg now and (fish that are above) 600g (can sell for) about RM80 per kg. During Chinese New Year, it can go up to between RM100 and RM150 per kg in some places,” she said, when met at the Taman Sahabat market in Teluk Kumbar, Penang.

Penang’s Seberang Prai Fishermen Association chairman Mahadi Md Rodzi said he does not think Chinese Pomfrets could be found in the markets anymore right now.

“Many fishermen have contracts with restaurants, which means if we catch them, they go to the restaurants first. You need a different net for pomfrets. They are not easy to catch and you have to wait a long time after setting out the nets,” he said.

In Pahang, Deepsea Fishermen Association chairman Mohd Yusery Mohd Yusoff urged consumers to start stocking up on their favourite seafood now.

His members ply the South China Sea, and they usually face dangerous storms at the end of the year.

“The weather is unstable right now, so anyone wanting their favourite festive dishes should start stocking up now.

“Otherwise, tiger prawns that cost around RM60 to RM70 per kg now may go up to RM150 or more later,” he said. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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