Presently, there are about 3000 trawlers in Peninsular Malaysia concentrating in Selangor, Perak, Johor, Pahang and Kelantan.
The fisherman enjoyed subsidized diesel of RM1.43 per litre compared to market diesel price of RM1.80 per litre.
The fishermen are unhappy that while the petrol and diesel price in the market has been reduced 6 times since this year but there have been no reduction in subsidized diesel since then.
On average, big trawlers consume about 20,000 – 25,000 litres of diesel per month while small trawlers consume about 8,000 – 10,000 litres per month.
While I do not have actual figure for the amount of diesel sold to fishermen, in Peninsular Malaysia, it is estimated that 70 million litres of subsidized diesels per month were sold to them.
Now, the fishermen have appealed for the following:
1) To have the price of diesel reduced to RM1 per litre.
The fishermen claimed that the operating profit margin is about 5%. At RM1.43, diesel will account for 50% of operating cost. At RM1.00, diesel will account for 35% of operating cost.
Therefore, reduction of price is crucial for survival in view of the low catch and since they operate at a very low margin of 5%.
2) Trawlers with class B license should be given permission to employ foreign workers since no local people are willing to work at the industry apart from the owner himself. There are about 2000 trawlers with license B. Average boat requires 3-4 workers, so we are talking about 6,000 to 8,000 foreign workers.
It cannot be denied that the government have been very concerned about the plight of fishermen and have been giving subsidy beside subsidized diesel; it also gives RM200 per month per license holder.
If they feel the above problems are not resolved, they will then attempt to stage boycott on 12th December.
We strongly feel that the government should consider reducing the price of:
1) subsidized diesel of RM1 or RM1.20 per litre;
2) Fixed quota as to reduce smuggling and direct sales of subsidized diesel for quick profit.
In the long term, the government cannot continue to subsidize the fishermen. Hence, we must look for alternatives to solve the problem of the fishermen:
1) Government must look for other source of income by weaning the fishermen to other more viable economy activities. A lot of Malaysians and younger generations are not interested in fishing industries, the government should seriously consider to wean existing fishermen to other industries. Compensation scheme should be given to those who are interested to move to other industries. The saving from subsidized diesel is more than adequate to compensate the fishermen;
2) Training scheme for fisherman so that they can meaningfully engage in other industries, e.g. aquaculture;
3) Finally, in the long term, this will serve to protect marine resources especially of over fishing so that for remaining fishermen, fishing becomes economically more viable.