In comparison to the muddy waters of Sarawak, the coastal resources of Sabah are dominated by reef fisheries and are heavily overfished. Catches in Sabah in 1998 (shown in the table below) in total amounted to 130,000 tonnes with almost twice the fisheries effort of the maximum economic yield and much greater fishing effort than the optimum effort required for maximum sustainable yield ( = 201,000 Mt).
Sabah used to have the highest catch rate for all states in Malaysia, the 1998 survey shows that catch rate has declined drastically; by nearly 74% since 1974. With all large fish stocks reduced by over 95% and almost no reproduction there is little chance of major improvement without major changes in policy. All fisheries resources that depend directly or indirectly on coral reefs are declining, and fish bombing (blast fishing) and cyanide are the main culprits.
Fisheries in Sabah have fallen by 74% over the last 20 years.
THE 1998 FISHERIES RESOURCES OF SABAH, EAST MALAYSIA
|BIOMASS(Mt)||POTENTIAL YIELD (Mt)||CURRENT YIELD (Mt)||STATUS|
|Coastal crustaceans||42,000||21,000||Heavily overfished|
|Coastal demersal fish||130,000||65,000||n/a||Heavily overfished|
|Offshore demersal fish||22,000||11,000||n/a||Heavily overfished|
|Coral reef fish||n/a||n/a||n/a||Heavily overfished|
|Offshore small pelagic fish||612,000||244,800||n/a||Exploited|
Around Sabah, fishing pressure is intense and there has been considerable diversification of fisheries effort. All of the known resources are exploited. There are a number of small artisanal fisheries for pelagic resources, light and pole fisheries for squid, liftnet fisheries for anchovies and small clupeoids as well as a small deep water trap fishery for Nautilus shells which are sold as curios to the tourist trade.
The major mollusc fishery is for the blood cockle (Anadara granosa) from Labuk Bay and Tawau, although large numbers of giant clams (Tridacna & Hippopus spp.) as well as several other
mollusc species are caught and sold in the local markets.