Cage Farming In Langkawi Guarantees Fish Supply For The Future

Last update: 19/12/2014

By Kurniawati Kamarudin

LANGKAWI (Bernama) - - The diminishing marine fishery resources worldwide is expected to worsen in the next 15 years in tandem with the rising demand and the ever increasing world population.

World Fish Centre, an international research organisation, reported that the world fisheries output amounts to 160 million metric tonnes per annum and the demand is expected to reach 238 million metric tonnes per annum in the next 15 years.

However, it may not be possible to fulfill the needs by then as the fishery resources are increasingly being depleted due to large scale fishing using high technology and giant nets.

Fishermen worldwide are seeing their catch decreasing and down the line the livelihood of the fishing community and those involved in the industries related to fisheries will be affected further.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) anticipates that if the big scale fishing continues like seen at present, the world's fishery resources will be depleted by 2030.

CAGE AQUACULTURE IN PULAU SIMPANG TIGA

However, many nations are trying to reverse this trend. And one country in the forefront is Norway that boasts for a successful salmon cage farming industry.

Norway is today the biggest salmon exporter and has proven to the world that high technology marine fish culture is the best way forward in reversing the depletion of fishery resources.

And Malaysia is not far behind in addressing the problem. The marine fish culture using the open sea cage farming method at Pulau Simpang Tiga in Langkawi is a far sighted private undertaking by Aquagrow Corporation.

Aquagrow's CEO Mohamed Razali Mohamed pointed out that the company applied the same techniques used in Norway in its undertaking starting three years ago.

Under the cooperation between the Fisheries Department and the Norway government, the fish cages made from High-density Polyethylene (HDPE) have been brought into Malaysia from Norway.

So far there are 18 HDPE cages being used to breed Crimson Snapper (ikan merah), Barramundi (siakap), and two types of groupers - Tiger Grouper (Kerapu Harimau) and Grouper Spp (Kerapu Kertang).

Each cage could accommodate 40,000 fishes weighing up to a kilogramme each, he said to Bernama during a visit to the marine culture site recently.

"This big scale venture involves a minimum capital of RM20 million. The bigger the investment means lesser the production cost, hence higher efficiency.

"This is important in keeping up with countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia that are far ahead in marine fish culture," he said.

BREEDING CENTRE

Before the fishes are released into the cages placed in the open sea, the fish eggs are hatched at the Incubator Nursery Centre in Bukit Malut.

The Integrated Aquaculture Intelligent Solution (IAIS) currently being applied in Norway and Scotland is applied here. The IAIS technology measures multiple parametres - the oxygen content in the water, the water current strength, pH value and temperature.

"Maintaining the correct parametres during the initial stages is crucial so that the fish fry mortality could be reduced and so that they could grow fast," he said.

When the fries are one month old, they will be transferred to a nursery and fed with food pallets for two months until they reach 4 centimeters.

They will subsequently be transferred to the HDPE cages in the open sea and fed with pallets until they reach the required size to be marketed locally and overseas.

HIGH QUALITY FISHES

The fishes from the cages are now exported to Singapore, Hong Kong and China while the processed fish fillet are exported to Australia, Europe and the United States.

"So far for the year 2014, he have produced 150 tonnes of fishes and in 2015 we plan to produce 500 tonnes of fishes. We have set the target that by 2017, Langkawi will be able to produce 1500 tonnes of fishes," he said.

Apart from Langkawi, Aquagrow has also introduced the cage system in Tok Bali, Kelantan in early 2013 and the next location will be Pulau Perhentian off Terengganu.

"We are producing good quality fishes that meet the taste of foreign markets . Local entrepreneurs should capitalise on cage farming so that the industry worth billions of Ringgit keeps expanding," he said.

If more entrepreneurs venture into this cage farming, we could create more local experts in the fisheries industry that is now dependent on foreign expertise, said Mohamed Razali whose employees come from Australia, France, the Philippines and Vietnam.

"Apart from that, if the industry expands the cages will become cheaper, the fish processing centres will increase and more people will be able to afford fishes bred through this method," he said.

WILL CREATE MORE APPRENTICE

To generate more entrepreneurs in the fishing industry, Aquagrow has made training new entrepreneurs in this field as its corporate social responsibility.

The entrepreneur training programme carried out with the cooperation of Biotech Corporation Malaysia and the Northern Corridor is expected to start in early 2015 with six local entrepreneurs from Langkawi given the opportunity to join the programme.

They will be trained in using the cage farming method in the open sea to produce fishes with good economic potential.

As for a start fish fries will be provided for them and when they grow to the required size Aquagrow will buy and market the fishes.

"We will train them until they acquire all the skills...," he said.

SHARING THE SUCCESS OF AN AQUACULTURE ENTREPRENEUR

Venturing into the relatively new marine fish breeding industry in Malaysia calls for entrepreneurs who not only have the resources at their disposal but also the will to take big risks.

As for Mohamed Razali Mohamed, 50, the chief executive officer of Aquagrow Corporation, taking risks in life is nothing new to him.

Mohamed Razali, born in Kota Baharu, Kelantan, has come a long way in life. He came from a poor family of nine siblings, with another nine step siblings and thus he is familiar with hardships in life.

He obtained excellent outcome in his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and continued his studies at Tasmania University in Hobart, Australia where he earned a degree in surveying. He also obtained a post graduate diploma from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

Mohamed Razali studied and worked in Australia for 15 years and it is where he first familiarised himself with aquaculture. In year 2000, after being convinced by a friend on the potential of fish breeding, he bought a fish breeding pond that was on sale in Adelaide, South Australia.

"For five years we bred Siakap (Barramundi) in the pond and learned by trial and error," he said to Bernama.

BACK IN MALAYSIA

Upon his return to Malaysia, he was back in the surveying business for a short period before venturing into aquaculture.

"In 2006, me and my two Australian business partners set up Aquagrow and applied for a loan from Agrobank as the government then was encouraging commercial scale farming," he said.

Starting the venture was quite seamless then as the fish cages were already there in the waters of Langkawi and waiting to be used.

With the consent of the authorities, Aquagrow repaired and upgraded the HDPE cages and the existing facilities like what is seen today at the location. The facilities include the round cages, hatchery and nursery apart from jetties and boats in Bukit Malut.

"So far the outcome has been satisfactory with more than 100 tonnes of fish harvested this year. With more juvenile fishes in the cages now, the harvest next year could reach up to 500 metric tonnes.

"The biggest jump in the harvest output will be in 2016, when the juvenile fishes reach between three and four kilogrammes and could be marketed overseas as fish fillet," he said.

THE PIONEER CAGE FISH BREEDING

Looking back, Mohamed Razali said it was an undertaking full of risks especially in the initial stages and he is happy that he had managed to overcome all hurdles and move ahead.

Mohamed Razali sees the founder of the Al-Rajhi Bank, Sheikh Suleyman Al-Rajhi as his mentor in getting to where he is today. Sheikh is also the owner of one of the biggest aquaculture group, the National Aquaculture Group (NAQUA), that breeds fishes in the Red Sea.

Based on the initial success, Mohamed Razali said Aquagrow is now embarking on world class fish cage farming in the Andaman Sea off Langkawi and in the South China Sea off Pulau Perhentian.

"Our vision is to emerge as the biggest marine aquaculture fishery producer within ASEAN by 2020," he said.

-- BERNAMA