Welcome speech by YAB Tuan Chow Kon Yeow,
Chief Minister of Penang at
the “World Seafood Congress 2019”
9 September 2019
Good morning. On behalf of the State Government of Penang, I am very pleased to welcome all of you to the World Seafood Congress 2019, held in one of the most beautiful islands in the region. Penang is proud to be the first destination in Asia to host this international event.
Indeed, the economy, culture and environment of Penang is defined as much by the land as by the sea that surrounds it. Fishing, shipping and maritime trade have historically dominated ocean activities in Penang. For many years, the fisheries sector in Penang played an important role in poverty reduction as well as in achieving food security. Malaysians are among the top fish consumers in the world - consuming about 57 kg of fish per person each year, it is therefore a critical source of food. In recent decades, in line with population growth, rising incomes and higher living standard, as well as emerging recognition of fish as healthy and nutritious food, demand for seafood products in Malaysia has notably increased. However, this growing demand has caused a significant collapse in fish stock in the country. Although there is an increasing number of certification schemes and initiatives that attempt to not only protect fish stocks but also the natural environments in which seafood is caught, this is still not enough to keep our oceans from severe environmental degradation and fishery collapse.
Relative to its land size, Penang has great marine and aquatic resources, which present it with wonderful opportunities. In 2017, its food fish sector, which consists of marine-capture fisheries, aquaculture fisheries and inland fisheries, produced about 96,970 metric tons, valued at RM1.4 billion. Currently, the wholesale value of Penang’s food fish production is ranked third in the country, after Perak and Kedah. Future scenarios, however, show that production from marine-capture fisheries on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia may become unreliable since many fish stocks are already over-exploited. Recognising this, various means of increasing production through aquaculture are now being explored. In fact, aquaculture sector is potentially the source to meet future demand for fish. During the past two decades, aquaculture fisheries in Penang have grown significantly at an average annual growth rate of 4.6% and 15.9% in production and value, respectively. In 2017, the aquaculture production in Penang gained the highest wholesale value in the country.
Although aquaculture offers an alternative to over-fishing, many aspects of aquaculture need enhanced scientific knowledge and technological advancement to become a sustainable source of food and an income generator.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Penang is poised to be a huge fish exporter in the region, due to its closeness to the Indian Ocean and its well-developed port and airport cargo transport facilities for shipping to the major East Asian markets. As Penang is a major transportation and logistics hub in the northern region and within the Indonesia-Thailand-Malaysia triangle, it naturally facilitates farmers in gaining access to the global market.
Therefore, Penang has the potential to become a centre for fisheries and aquaculture R&D and produce high value-added fish and fish-based products because of the concentration of research facilities and world-renowned research institutes located here such as the Worldfish Centre, the Fisheries Research Institute, and the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies of Universiti Sains Malaysia.
In line with its Penang2030 vision, the State Government of Penang is aiming to modernise and diversify agricultural production to position Penang as a high-tech Green Valley and aquaculture industrial zone. The seafood industry should be kept as sustainable as possible. We need to build a more sustainable relationship with our oceans, as they are vital for food security, economic growth, and sustainable livelihoods. Excesses, carelessness and short-sightedness should be curbed if we are to avoid detrimental conditions such as over-fishing and resource depletion, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, threats to food security and food safety, inadequate regulation and oversight across the value chain, and unintended consequences of bycatch.
Of course, governments play an important role in addressing these challenges, acting on their own and together with others. However, fish have no boundaries. Regional and international cooperation is therefore becoming ever more important. That is indeed a major reason why this congress is being held—to facilitate such cooperation.
Local communities are also the key for implementing sustainable fisheries and for promoting changes across the whole production chain. The community as a whole, both men and women, should be involved and engaged in fisheries policy-making and should contribute their specific knowledge, perspectives and needs.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year’s Congress has a great theme. “Seafood Supply Chains of the Future” with special focus on Innovation, Responsibility and Sustainability. It tackles the big issues. How can we ensure both business profitability and resource sustainability objectives? Where will we find the global seafood leaders of the future? What does industry 4.0 mean for the industry?
This Congress indeed provides a valuable opportunity for researchers, scientists, industry specialists and decision-makers to share their knowledge and experiences. I am grateful to the many experts who have come to share their knowledge with us. I also welcome the many representatives of governments, industry associations and NGOs who have joined us here.
I am sure you will have fruitful and rewarding exchanges in these three days. I wish you every success and I look forward to learning about the outcome.