Deteriorating environmental quality has been identified as the main cause behind the decline of breeding and production of cockles in the country, survey by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) revealed today.
The survey in Perak and Penang found that several natural cockle breeding grounds were threatened by clearing of mangrove forests, poisonous effluents from shrimp farms, industrial waste, sludge from coastal reclamation projects and sedimentation from inland development and development on highlands.
Mangrove forests function as source of food supply and breeding grounds for marine lives.
The problem has affected the income of nearly 5,000 coastal fishers in these states as many cockles faced difficulties to breed and had died.
“This has contributed to the decline in population and near extinction of this marine life,” said CAP president SM Mohamed Idris, who is upset that the relevant authorities had failed to resolve the decade old problem.
CAP urges the government to take immediate action on the sources of the problem and enforce relevant laws stringently and effectively to curb the contributing factor to the dwindling cockle production.
Idris said cockle breeding activity among local fishers must be intensified to generate more income for fishers and increase our food supply.
Besides rampant smuggling of cockle spats to neighbouring countries, which enforcement agencies had failed to curb effectively, he said marine pollution and destruction of mangroves threatened cockle breeding in the coastal areas, causing its near extinction.
Idris was commenting on a statement by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) marine biologist Prof. Dr. Zulfigar Yassin published in a local daily recently.
According to Zulfigar, cockle production in the country has declined 84% since then, from 100,000 metric tonnes to 16,000 metric tonnes, and hence causing a sharp increase in the price of the seafood.
CAP believes that if the source of the problem was not handled immediately, it would burden consumers, affect income of fishers and threaten the nation’s food supply in the near future.