- Title: Big aquaculture bulldozes Malaysia's fishing village
- Date: 7th November 2018
- Summary: SABAH, MALAYSIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) VILLAGE CHIEF, MATAKIN BONDIEN NAVIGATING BOAT IN MANGROVE SWAMP ON HIS LAND WASTE WATER COMING OUT OF PIPE OF ONE OF THE SHRIMP FARM'S PONDS VARIOUS OF WASTE WATER FROM A DIFFERENT SHRIMP FARM'S PIPE (SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Malaysia) VILLAGE CHIEF, MATAKIN BONDIEN, SAYING: "Whatever the case, we don't want further destruction to happen because the climate has already become hotter, there are no more mangroves. When the tide comes in, the water overflows because there is nowhere else for it to go, there is no more drainage for the water to escape." BONDIEN ON BOAT MANGROVE FOREST WATER / BONDIEN ON BOAT BULLDOZED MANGROVE FOREST BONDIEN ON BOAT MOVING TOWARDS OFFICE OF THE SUNLIGHT INNO SEAFOOD, THE COMPANY THAT OWNS THE SHRIMP FARMS VILLAGER, SAMAD SAMAYONG LOOKING AT SHRIMP FARM ON LAND THAT USED TO BE A MANGROVE FOREST SHRIMP FARM VARIOUS OF SAMAYONG WALKING IN FOREST VARIOUS OF VILLAGERS PREPARING BOAT TO GO TO ANOTHER SHRIMP FARM BOAT ON WATER VARIOUS OF VILLAGERS OPENING UP CORRUGATED IRON SHEET TO SHOW SHRIMP FARM (SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Malaysia) VILLAGER, SAMAD SAMAYONG, REFERRING TO AN ANCESTRAL ROCK THAT THE SHRIMP FARM IS BUILT ON, SAYING: "Our hopes have been crushed, we feel very oppressed, because we can see it but we can't go to it. It's like losing family." VARIOUS OF BORNEO MARINE RESEARCH INSTITUTE POST GRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT, SHEK QIN DOCUMENTING STINGRAY (SOUNDBITE) (English) BORNEO MARINE RESEARCH INSTITUTE POST GRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT, SHEK QIN, SAYING: "Nowadays, we don't have much data on the sharks and rays, and by doing this, we hope that we can do some new rules and regulations to put them under protection, under Malaysian law." LANDING AREA WHERE FISHING BOATS UNLOAD THEIR CATCH BOXES OF FISH MAN CUTTING UP FISH SEA CUCUMBER FARMER ASTINAH BINTI JAMARI PULLING BOAT TO COLLECT SEA CUCUMBER ASTINAH BINTI JAMARI SURFACING WITH SEA CUCUMBERS (SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Malaysia) SEA CUCUMBER FARMER ASTINAH BINTI JAMARI, SAYING: "That is the life for us villagers, we have to face the elements like waves, and changing of the monsoon season, which we have to face with perseverance. My perseverance is in hoping that my son wouldn't have to be a fisherman like me. I want my child to excel in education and continue his studies to wherever destiny brings them." ASTINAH BINTI JAMARI PULLING BOAT (SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Malaysia) SEA CUCUMBER FARMER ASTINAH BINTI JAMARI, SAYING: "I wouldn't know how our lives would be if it wasn't for the sea cucumber. Look at the surroundings behind me, even though I'm not feeling well, I'm still willing to come out here to look for sea cucumbers because of the benefits that it brings to my family." ASTINAH BINTI JAMARI WALKING ON BOARDWALK SEA CUCUMBER BEING CUT UP
- Embargoed: 21st November 2018 06:47
- Keywords: Malaysia pollution shrimp farms Sabah sea cucumbers aquaculture development
- Location: SABAH, MALAYSIA
- City: SABAH, MALAYSIA
- Country: Malaysia
- Topics: Pollution,Environment,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA00195I8NR9
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Navigating his boat deftly through the mangrove forest, Matakin Bondien, a village chief in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, points out the various sources of waste water pouring out into a stream.
Not long ago, the clearing had been home to mangroves: saltwater-loving trees that anchor a web of life stretching from fish larvae hatching in the cradle of their underwater roots to the hornbills squawking at their crown. Now their benevolent presence is gone, and their loss pierced Bondien, a village leader of the Tombonuo people, to the core.
With climate change posing multiple threats to oceans already emptied by decades of over-fishing, the aquaculture industry argues that farmed seafood will be an important part of the solution for meeting the world's growing demand for food.
But as the destruction witnessed by Reuters in Borneo attests, the industry has many faces. Done badly, industrial fish farming can be a major source of pollution, antibiotic resistance, habitat loss, disease outbreaks and cruelty to sentient creatures that science increasingly recognises as capable of feeling pain.
"Whatever the case, we don't want further destruction to happen because the climate has already become hotter," Bondien said.
The fish farms in the area are all part of a company called Sunlight Inno Seafood, owned by Cedric Wong King Ti, a Malaysian businessman known by the nickname "King Wong".
Environmental campaigners say the company has bulldozed swaths of virgin mangroves in the Tombonuo's homeland in northern Borneo to make space for plastic-lined ponds filled with millions of king prawns. The shrimp are destined to be fattened for three months, scooped up in nets, quick frozen, packed into 40-foot refrigerated containers and loaded onto cargo ships bound for distant ports.
Locals say that several years ago, representatives of Sunlight Seafood offered leaders of the Tombonuo and other indigenous communities a deal. In return for some of the land flanking the tidal creeks where their mangroves stood, the company would provide running water, electricity and much-needed jobs for youths in the surrounding district of Pitas, locals recalled. Five years since the bulldozers went to work, they can barely believe the destruction the project has caused.
Sunlight Seafood did not respond to a Reuters request for comment made by telephone, email and a letter delivered to its office in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah state. Reuters also contacted a law firm in Kuala Lumpur that had acted for the company in the past but received no reply.
The Sabah Environmental Protection Association says the project covers 2,300 acres. The sheer scale of the farm is only fully apparent from up close. In July, Samayong, Bondien and other Tombonuo led a Reuters reporter and photographer on a three-boat party to various points along the perimeter. It took hours for the boats to motor along even a portion of the fence enclosing the site.
Apart from flattening more trees, locals in Pitas fear that mechanical diggers will encroach on ancestral shrines, including an eerie riverbank shrine believed to be guarded by a spirit husband and wife.
With evidence mounting that mangroves represent an effective buffer against climate impact, governments in south-east Asia are starting to question the gusto with which they once encouraged prawn farmers to fell the trees, which can take 15 years to mature. On a visit to the Sunlight Seafood farm in October, Junz Wong, Sabah's agriculture minister, said the project was being run "quite professionally" and had created nearly 400 jobs. But Wong said he had turned down a request by the company to expand onto another 1,000 acres of mangroves.
At a landing area for the catch of the day in Kota Kinabalu, Shek Qin, 25, cuts an incongruous figure in her ponytail, yellow rubber boots and surgical gloves.
But only two weeks into the job, the research assistant from the Borneo Marine Research Institute had earned the respect of the stevedores with her dedication to spending the small hours monitoring catches of sharks and rays.
Her goal was to gather data to prove to Malaysia's government that these species need official protection - a task she confronted armed with nothing more than her phone camera and a ruler.
Buckling under the pressure of over-fishing, dead zones linked to runoff from oil-palm and rubber plantations, and the coral-smashing practice of illegal dynamite fishing, tropical fisheries are acutely vulnerable to the kind of domino effects a changing climate can unleash.
But there is another way. Farther to the north of Borneo, villagers are pursuing a very different vision for the sector, one that doesn't take more than nature can give. They're raising sea cucumbers: curious-looking creatures resembling giant slugs that are typically braised and served with oysters, mushrooms and spring onions, or - if you're in Japan - thinly sliced, flavoured with wasabi, and eaten raw.
These echinoderms - close relatives of sea urchins and star fish - may not immediately appeal to every palate. But farming them has one of the lightest footprints of any form of food production - a reminder of the vast untapped potential for harvesting oysters, mussels, clams and many other types of bottom-feeders from the sea.
A couple of hours' drive over dirt roads from the Sunlight Seafood shrimp farm, the village of Mapan Mapan rises from the seabed like a vision from a storybook.
Immersed waist-deep in one of these briny paddocks, Astinah Binti Jamari took a deep breath and plunged beneath the surface. After long moments rummaging in the sand, she reared up in triumph, gasping for air, a sea cucumber clutched in her hand.
Once a struggling single parent, she explained that sea cucumbers had wriggled to her rescue, earning her enough money to put her five children through school and build a new house-on-stilts.
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