For many years, the fisheries sector in Penang has played an important role in poverty reduction, as well as in achieving food security. Although fisheries contribute only 11.5% to the GDP of the agriculture sector and less than 1% to the national GDP,1 it is still an important component of agriculture and the economy of the country.
In 2017 Penang’s food fish sector, which consists of marine capture fisheries, aquaculture fisheries and inland fisheries, produced 96,970.4 metric tonnes, valued at RM1.4bil. Yet, domestic demand for fish exceeds that of local supply. In 2017 food fish production in Penang reached the third-highest wholesale value in the country, after Perak and Kedah. Aquaculture contributed about 47.2% to the state’s food fish production (45,743 metric tonnes valued at RM815.2mil); marine capture fisheries contributed around 52.8% (51,185 metric tonnes valued at RM555.2mil) and production from inland fisheries contributed about 0.04% of the total food fish production in 2017 (Figure 1).
Marine Captured Fisheries Sector
As illustrated in Figure 2, Penang’s marine capture fisheries declined dramatically by about 49% from 46,177 metric tonnes in 1995 to 23,450 metric tonnes in 2005, mainly due to the limitation on the issuance of fishing vessel licenses to control overfishing.
After years of steady decline in marine fisheries production, the quantity of marine fish landings began to increase to a high of 63,972 metric tonnes in 2011, and was reported to be at about 51,185 metric tonnes in 2017. The wholesale value of captured fisheries increased remarkably from RM152.6mil in 1995 to RM555.2mil in 2017.
In Penang, the greatest contributions to total landings were made by drift/gill nets (42.4%), followed by trawl nets (25.6%) (Figure 3). However, they are not sustainable fishing practices, as they might also catch juvenile fish and destroy their breeding or spawning grounds. Hence, a transition to improved practices is needed.
Over the past two decades (1995-2017), aquaculture fisheries in Penang has grown significantly, at an average annual growth rate of 4.6% and 15.9% in production and value, respectively (Figure 4).
The total aquaculture production in Penang dropped dramatically by around 55.6% in 2016 – most likely due to disease as well as the 2015/2016 El Niño event.
In 2017 aquaculture production and value began to increase again by 31.3% and 25.6%, respectively. Penang is currently the third-largest producer of aquaculture products in the country, after Sabah and Perak (Figure 5). In 2017 aquaculture production in Penang gained the highest wholesale value in the country (Figure 6). Brackish water ponds and cages make up the majority of Penang’s aquaculture.
In terms of shrimp culture, during the period of 2011-2015, Penang was the second-highest producer of shrimp in the country, after Sabah, and its value gained the highest wholesale value in the country.
In 2016 Penang’s shrimp aquaculture production dropped significantly by about 56.7% compared to 2015 – mainly due to disease. Yet, its value gained the second-highest wholesale value in the country. In 2017 shrimp production and value declined further by about 47.4% and 52.8% respectively, which could be due to ongoing disease issues (Tables 1 and 2).