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KOTA KINABALU, Feb 7, 2016:

With the economy slowing down, a Sabah Opposition leader does not think the decision to ban the export of fresh seafood is exactly a good idea right now.

Believing that it would hurt the state’s economy more, Kota Kinabalu MP Jimmy Wong described the decision as too drastic and would have negative impact on the sector, especially since many fish farmers depended on the business.

“The business brings in an annual income of about RM800 million, so we are losing quite a lot over the ban,” he said in response to Sabah Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin’s recent announcement on the ban.

Wong said that while measures should be taken to address the shortage of fresh seafood in the local market in Sabah, the ban should only include fish that are naturally harvested, rather than those that are farmed.

“After all, Sabah’s fresh seafood export should not be blamed for the shortage, but rather lack of enforcement over fisheries law by the relevant department,” said Wong.

He said while the country was still struggling to enforce its fisheries law, other countries, such as China and Hong Kong, were far ahead by imposing a control period of four months during which fishing was strictly prohibited to allow time for fish to breed.

“We also have far more alarming issues that needed to be tackled, such as fish bombing and allowing trawling near coastlines. And maybe we should consider imposing fishing control period, because for now, fishing is done all year round,” he said.

Earlier this week, Yahya announced that the state government had banned the export of seafood from Sabah with immediate effect, adding that only frozen seafood may be exported.

“This is so we can enjoy more fresh seafood, and we may even become more attractive to tourists who are keen on having fresh seafood,” said Yahya, adding the decision was also meant to address local shortage of fresh seafood in Sabah as most were exported.

Sabah Fisheries Department director Datuk Rayner Stuel Galid recently disclosed that 20 companies in the state were in the business of exporting fresh seafood, with at least 130,000 tonnes of frozen and live seafood shipped out annually to West Malaysia, European Union, the United States, China, Brunei and Sarawak, to mention some.

Galid, however, said that the department would study the impact of the new directive, but noted that fresh seafood was only one of the three categories of seafood produced in Sabah.

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