REHABILITATE ....The Petagas River will undergo a stock improvement programme in an effort to rehabilitate its ecosystem.
By : REBECCA CHONG
DECADES of overfishing and habitat destruction have exacted a heavy toll on the ecosystem of the Petagas River. Fishery stocks have dwindled dramatically with dire consequences on our aquatic resources. The ecosystem is no longer able to cope.
About 40 years ago, Petagas River was an economic source for the fishermen community along the river. The river water was much cleaner and the surrounding environment was also more peaceful and the Petagas community thrived along the river banks., This was how the Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry, Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin remembers the river.
Today, he is among the many who lament the massive pollution of the Petagas River as well as all the other rivers in Sabah. Yahya's observation is well supported by the research findings of the Department of Environment which monitors the condition of the river water across Sabah. The water quality has deteriorated dangerously.
"Primary pollutants are clearly visible to the naked eyes especially domestic waste such as plastic bags and bottles, not to mention the effluents from the houses along the river bank.
However, the director of Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Professor Dr. Saleem Mustafa thinks he has a solution to the depleting aquatic life.
He said "looking at the current situation, the demand for aquatic food in the future can only be met through a new effort in the method of fisheries management, for example by increasing aquaculture production."
The new method mentioned by Dr. Saleem is based on science and technology and it is needed to meet the escalating demands of food sources. This method is named 'Sea Ranching'. It involves the release of seeds from the selected aquatic species produced from the hatchery to the natural environment.
"It is one way that can support the sustainability of fishery resources" Dr, Saleem added.
He further explained, "in doing marine farming, the main objective is the improvement of fishery stocks to increase the original population that has decreased. Thus restocking of fish will increase breeding as well as optimise catch. This in turn will give the communities involved a better income."
According to Dr. Saleem, in the stock improvement project in Sungai Petagas, shrimp was chosen because it is able to survive in fresh water as well as in brackish water. Shrimp's diet is also compatible with the type of food available in Petagas River.
10 village chiefs from Petagas released a total of 5000 shrimp seeds in the Petagas River last week. This is the second phase of the Petagas River stock improvement project.
SHRIMP ......Professor Dr. Saleem Mustafa (2nd left), the director of Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, giving shrimp seeds to the Putatan District Officer, Awang Abdul Ghani Pg Yusoff (2nd right) witnessed by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin.
Dr Saleem said that these programs involve the local community taking care to ensure that the river is protected. This is also the second objective in ensuring the productivity of food resources from Petagas river increase.
Yahya Hussin expressed his hope that the stock improvement programs and aquatic resource conservation effort between the District Office and UMS Borneo Marine Research Institute, would improve the water quality of the Petagas River in 6 months to one year's time, and better catch for the fishermen as a result. -Insight Sabah