SETIU: Sungai Chalok in Penarik used to be a national hotspot for shrimp (udang galah) anglers, as it allowed them to snag as many as five kilogrammes of the crustaceans within less than half a day.
But four years ago, the shrimp started to disappear and today, anglers would be lucky to capture three shrimps after a day’s-worth of fishing. Even the popular baung catfish and ‘udang gantung’ (small shrimp) are now missing from fish traps.
Local riverine fishermen, meanwhile, used to earn as much as RM200 a day during the regular season, and close to RM500 a day during the shrimp season from November to February. But many have abandoned shrimps fishing, and have opted to venture out to sea to catch commercial marine fish.
The problem began when one of the country’s largest shrimp farms, run by Blue Archipelago Sdn Bhd, started discharging sea water contaminated with chemicals into Sungai Chalok, which affected the ecosystem, especially the shrimps which are sensitive to pollution.
Stopa Sulong, 66, said shrimps are a barometer of the health of a river system.
“If the farm had discharged uncontaminated sea water, the shrimps would have survived, because the river (naturally experiences) sea water incursions many times in a year.
“But because the discharge is contaminated with chemicals, the shrimps are now gone,” said Stopa, a shrimp fisherman who is lamenting his loss of income due to the pollution.
Mohd Bukhari Yusof, 45, said he stopped fishing for shrimps three years ago after his catch started to dwindle, and decided to spend more time catching fish at sea.
“The river is dead. I see no hope of the shrimp making a comeback unless the government puts a stop to the dumping of contaminated seawater into Sungai Chalok,” said Bukhari, who, since a teenager, spent most of his time catching and selling shrimp.
Saiful Bahri Salleh, 37, said the shrimp farm should build a processing plant to remove all the chemicals from the sea water before discharging it in the river.
“Usually, in August and September, the river water turns green. It is a sign of dead micro-organisms which are food for the shrimps. I hope something is done protect the river from further degradation,” he added.
When alerted to the problem, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said the relevant agencies are now monitoring the situation following numerous complaints from riverine fishermen in Penarik.
“I am waiting for a full report from the Department of Environment (DoE). At the same time, I want the villagers to lodge reports directly to the DoE and other agencies such as the Fisheries Department, for them to conduct investigations,” he added.