The concerning presence of “Kenka” boats in the Kerian River

Mar 19, 2020

It is well known that river lobsters are the main catch for 200 to 300 riverine fishers in the Kerian River in Nibong Tebal, regardless of whether they are full time or part-time fishers. Their daily income and catch depend on the harvest from the river. At present, their income seems to have been plundered and threatened by irresponsible parties.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Komuniti Nelayan Sungai Tanjung Berembang urge the Penang Fisheries Department, Seberang Perai City Council (MBSP), District & Land Office of Seberang Perai Selatan and the Irrigation and Drainage Department (DID) to conduct a field visit and investigate the status of a fish landing platform operating in Sungai Tok Tuntong, Nibong Tebal. The platform has been built on the riverbank of Sungai Kerian and is unsuitable with the surrounding environment.

The problems that have occurred over the past year have caused the riverine fishers to worry about their safety, along with the prospect of a dwindling catch. The riverine fishers feel unsafe as a result of larger “kenka’ boats that frequently ply along the river, to and from the fish landing. The workshop to repair boats, which is located next to the platform, has also contributed to the increased in the presence of “kenka” boats on the river.

SAM has also learnt the boats have also carried ‘trash fish’ to the landing platform, to supply to the near by aquaculture farms. This platform is mainly used by “kenka” boats which are larger compared to the sampan or boats of the riverine fishers. The larger boats pose danger to many fishermen here who are angling or casting their nets. Furthermore, the waves caused by the “kenka” boats also contributed to riverbank erosion of the Kerian River and surrounding areas.

In addition, the fishers have also complained about the boat repair workshop in the adjoining area, which has increased the number of “kenka” boats plying in the area, and disrupting the activities of the riverine fishers. It is feared that untoward accidents in the waters may occur. According to a fisherman in Tanjung Berembang, there was recently an accident involving a fibre boat carrying stock of ‘trash fish’ that hit a fisherman’s boat, splitting it in two.

SAM was informed by the local fisher community that the matter had been reported to the authorities, and that they were aware of the existence of the fish landing platform since its initial construction. What surprised the fishers was how this platform was allowed to be built so close to the Kerian River.

SAM also questioned the land ownership status. Is it regarded as State land, river reserve, private land or under temporary occupancy license (TOL). SAM has written to the authorities regarding the status of the land and is waiting their reply.

In a survey conducted by the Tanjung Berembang riverine fisher community, they found that development in the river reserve area seems to be increasing. Not only that, but there were times when the “kenka” boat owners contravened the law by casting their nets into the river. Although warned by the riverine fishers, the “kenka” boat operators do not care. The question is, are they immune to any action that might be taken against them?

We also believe that all these activities related to the fish landing platform and “kenka” boats are detrimental to the environment and to the river ecosystem.

In this regard, we hope the relevant authorities will conduct surveillance and take appropriate action to resolve the issue. If no action is taken, we are concerned that the income of the riverine fishers will be further affected and that they may also face difficulties conducting their daily fishing activities.

For more information contact:
Meenakshi Raman
President, Sahabat Alam Malaysia