The government should promote sustainable fishing with a new model to reduce the costs arising from scarcity due to over-fishing, says Ronald Benjamin.
The Association for Community and Dialogue recently organised a dialogue session with fishermen’s associations in Perak.
Human Resources Minister M Kula Segaran and officials from the Immigration Department were present.
The discussion centred on the new ruling that required foreign workers to register with the Ministry of Home Affairs instead of the Fisheries Department.
The representatives of the fishermen’s associations claimed it now took longer for foreign workers to be registered. The waiting period caused fishermen to lose their human resources.
Previously, it took one day to register the workers with the Fisheries Department.
Now, it takes longer because the Ministry of Home Affairs requires health screenings and other documentation. As their income depends on the harvest, the associations said they are stranded because locals do not want to work on fishing boats.
In this industry, there is a tendency for foreign workers to run away, and the high cost related to the immigration process of hiring new workers affects the industry.
Looking at the nature of the fishing industry, we feel it is vital for the government to come up with a vision and policy to resolve these issues. A one-size-fits-all rule for the hiring of foreign workers does not do justice to certain industries.
At the same time, one should not jeopardise the safety and health of Malaysians with inadequate screenings of foreign workers.
Any delay in tackling bureaucratic bottlenecks will have a major impact on the prices of fish and fishery products. Middlemen who inflate the cost of fish and fishery products in the market already pose a structural burden.
As find a solution, the relevant ministries (for agriculture and agro-based industries, human resources and home affairs) should establish a joint committee to tackle issues related to the hiring of foreign workers. The complexity of the issues requires more information and joint solutions in tackling the cost of inputs in the fisheries sector.
In the long term, authorities have to embrace digital technology to expedite the administrative processes related to foreign workers.
On a broader scale, the issues are related to an imbalance in development: rapid urbanisation and the quest for a materialistic lifestyle have made professions such as fishing unattractive to the younger generation.
Fishermen risk their lives to provide a much-needed source of protein to Malaysians.
The challenges in the fishing industry are complex and go beyond the technical aspects of employing foreign workers.
Hopefully the government will tackle the imbalance of development in semi-rural and rural areas to attract more youths to the fishing profession.
A new model of sustainable fishing should be initiated to reduce the cost that results from scarcity due to over-fishing. This should complement the initiative to reduce the cost of employing foreign workers.
A holistic solution that takes into consideration the ecosystem of the fishing industry is vital to reduce the overall input cost, which affects fishermen and consumers.
Source: New Straits Times