KOTA KINABALU: The authorisation given to the Sabah Fisheries Department to issue deep-sea fishing licences is expected to help boost the deep-sea fishing industry in this region.

Vessel and deep-sea fishing paraphernalia licences in Sabah were previously handled through the Malaysian Fisheries Department director-general.

“This means Sabah can decide how many licences to be issued and how many fish can be (raked in) based on the source capacity in our waters,” said Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee.

“The decision is expected to benefit both the Federal and state governments in terms of managing fisheries resources, coastal security and international relations.”

He hopes that this latest move would boost the deep-sea fishing industry, citing the tuna industry strategic development plan in Labuan covering South China Sea, Sulu Sea and Sulawesi Sea.

“These seas have huge potential in the tuna industry so I hope this can be exploited,” he added.

Yesterday, Kiandee handed over the letter of empowerment to the Sabah Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.

Kiandee said the move to authorise the department for the task was made during a Malaysia 1963 Special Council meeting on Oct 18.

Explaining the authorisation given to the department, Kiandee said both the Sabah and Sarawak Fisheries Department now have the power to issue deep-sea permits and licenses for fishing vessels.

“The distribution of power will start with the receiving of applications, auditing, review, approval of applications up until the issuance of permits and licences for vessels and fishing paraphernalia for deep-sea activities, based on set conditions.”

Kiandee said that Sabah’s fisheries industry has a huge potential for development. Currently, the state had 30,486 fishermen with 206,703 metric tonnes of fish landing annually, valued at over RM1.2bil.

In another event in Beluran, Kiandee said the organic agriculture (livestock) programme has benefited 863 participants in 253 communities nationwide, who have carried out organic projects including those for kampung chicken, ducks, quail, rabbits and goats.

He said through this programme, conducted on a community basis, assistance had been provided in the form of grants of between RM30,000 and RM50,000 for each community.