Fishing and Aquaculture in Malaysia

June 29, 2021Lu Shegay


Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia with 210 mammals, 620 species of birds, 250 reptiles, 150 species of frogs, 80 species of lizards, and thousands of insect species. Malaysia has a large area of its Exclusive Economic Zone that is 1.5 times larger than its land area. Some country’s waters are located in the Coral Triangle, the waters around Sipadan island are considered the most biodiverse in the world. The Sulu Sea is another biodiversity hotspot with approximately 600 coral species and 1200 fish species. Aquaculture is the dominant industry in the country that has developed rapidly in the 1920s. The predominant practice of aquaculture in Malaysia is brackish water aquaculture along with freshwater pond aquaculture and marine aquaculture.

"Brown and White Food on White Ceramic Plate" by Kindel Media from Pexels

Fisheries Production

According to the Fishery Department, Malaysia produces about 1.5 million metric tons every year. Most of the marine catch are pelagic fish with Indian mackerel, round scad, squid, tuna, and bream being among the major species caught. The domestic fish supply consists of approximately 1.45 million metric tons a year. About 36 000 vessels were estimated, among which there are small boats fitted with outboard motors. Per capita, the annual consumption of fisheries products is approximately 114.6 lbs (52 kg).

In 2016, the value for capture fisheries production was 1 584 371 metric tons, and the value for total fisheries production was 1 992 258 metric tons.

Aquaculture Production

As was mentioned above, brackish is the major aquaculture industry in Malaysia with a total production of approximately 144 189 tonnes. Brackish aquaculture involves bivalve mollusks, which is mostly distributed in the western coastal waters with an excessive amount of mudflats. Another type of aquaculture in the country is freshwater aquaculture with a production of 49 951 tonnes. In 2003, this was approximately 30% of the total aquaculture production. The main species that are bred are the red hybrid tilapia, hybrid walking catfish, and climbing perch. These species are distributed in lakes, reservoirs, ex-mining pools, etc.

Brackish aquaculture consists mostly of 54% of bivalve mollusks, mainly the blood cockles, followed by shrimps, giant tiger prawns, and marine fish. But the black tiger shrimp has been the main species in terms of the value of production - for a period of 5 years, this species has been valued at USD 160 186. Malaysia has lots of species of aquatic animals that are endemic to the region, but not all of them are commercialized. Almost all species of marine fish are indigenous to the country, but there are some products that are imported from Taiwan and Thailand.

As for freshwater aquaculture production, Nile tilapia comprises 44.7% of the total freshwater farming type - it was first introduced in 1944 from Indonesia. Catfish production (36.7%) and carps (10.08%) follow the list. In terms of the value of production, Nile tilapia remains the main species contributing 49.37%, the red tilapia had the highest value of USD 27 million.

There are several culture practices and systems that are operating in Malaysia, which are:

“In 1990, production from aquaculture was 52 302 tonnes. By 1994, production had doubled to 114 114 tonnes. In 2003, aquaculture production was at 194 139 tonnes at a value of USD 308 million - about 20% of the total value of the fisheries production in Malaysia. Brackish water species accounted for more than 70% of the total aquaculture production in terms of value and quantity. Of these, blood cockles recorded the highest production, followed by marine shrimp and other freshwater species, such as tilapia, carps, and catfish, as well as marine fish. Cockles account for almost 50% of the total brackish water aquaculture production, and about 37% of the annual aquaculture production. However, marine shrimp accounted for the highest value of production, with about 65% of the total value of brackishwater aquaculture production, and 52% of the total value of aquaculture production in 2003. Marine and brackish water aquaculture production recorded an increase of more than 20% in comparison to production in 2002. Freshwater aquaculture production, however, only recorded an increase of about 7% in comparison with production in 2002.”

Malaysia exports some species of marine fish, i.e, the barramundi, groupers, crabs, black tiger prawns, white-leg shrimps, to Singapore, mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. As for the import, the country gets marine fish fry and fingerlings, fishmeal from other countries.

"Fresh Fishes" by from Pexels

Fisheries Act of 1985

The Act defines aquaculture as “the propagation of fish seed or the raising of fish through husbandry during the whole or part of its life cycle.” (Section 2) Fish, according to the Act, is “any aquatic animal or plant life, sedentary or not, and includes all species of finfish, crustacea, mollusca, aquatic mammals, or their eggs or spawn, fry, fingerling, spat or young, but does not include any species of otters, turtles or their eggs.” The law identifies fishing as “the catching, taking or killing of fish by any method; the attempted catching, taking or killing of fish; engaging in any activity which can reasonably be expected to result in the catching, taking or killing of fish; or any operation in support of, or in preparation for, any activity described in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of this definition.”

Section 25 of the Act also provides the violations and offenses.

“Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of this Act shall be guilty of an offense and where no special penalty is provided in relation thereto, such person shall be liable—

Part VIII consists of aquaculture provisions, including administrative details and punishments. Section 40 provides:

“(1) Any person who—

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