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Singapore netizens sense ulterior motive to Malaysia’s ban of fish export in Jan-Feb 2019 though ban extends to all trade partners

The Malaysia government has announced that they will be seizing the export of four species of wild-caught fish and shrimp in order to cater for the inevitable shortage in the local market during the monsoon and festive seasons.

Malaysian Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub said on Monday at that mackerel (kembung), trevally (selar), Indian mackerel (pelaling), and pomfret (bawal) as well as shrimp will be prohibited from export between 1st January and 28th February 2019.

The Minister added that three local associations – the National Fishermen’s Association (NEKMAT), Kedah Fishermen’s Association (NEKAD), and Besur Area Fishermen’s Association (PNK BESUT) – will be in charge of storing and supplying frozen fish throughout the country. Mr Salahuddin noted that the fish stocks in those three centres are currently at about 400 tonnes.

As soon as this export restriction was announced, Singaporeans were quick to react. Some are convinced that this fish ban, which follows there recent announcement that Malaysia might reduce its export of eggs, is just the beginning of a trade war set off by Malaysia in response to the ongoing maritime and airspace territorial disputes between the two neighbouring nations.

Others commented that this presents an opportunity for Singapore to start boycotting Malaysian imports and source for products and food elsewhere instead:

While others still suggested more drastic measures of sacking Malaysian’s working in Singapore or limiting the entry of Malaysians into Singapore.

To be honest, this seems like a bit of an overreaction to what is a reasonable move by the Malaysian government to protect the interest of their own people. The monsoon season usually results in a lower supply of seafood and with Chinese New Year falling right in the middle of the season, the problem is compounded. Seafood is in popular demand during the festive seasons so the government is merely ensuring that there’s enough supply on hand to meet demands.

In fact, some bright netizens pointed this out – thought these comments were largely ignored by most other commenters. They noted that the ban is only for two months and is only on four fish and shrimp, so there’s really no reason to be alarmed.

This makes sense. Fishing is always harder during the monsoon seasons which severely decreases supply. It’s logical that the Malaysian government would want to preserve their limited supply for locals. One netizen who has family in the fishing business shared her own experience, which tallies with this policy:

Also worth noting that Mr Salahuddin didn’t say they were banning export of those fish to Singapore along. Presumably, the four species of fish and shrimp will be banned for export to ALL of Malaysia’s trade partners.