BEAUFORT August 13, 2012: Villagers at Kampung Suasa here were overjoyed with their bountiful catch of giant fresh water prawns, popularly known by locals as ¡’udang galah’ at a harvest here on August 9 under the Tagal System, the first not only for the state of Sabah, but for Malaysia as a whole.
Deputy director of the Fisheries Department, Jephrin Z Wong, who witnessed the event, said this is the first udang galah harvest in the country since the tagal approach in conservation of fish products along rivers took off in three districts in Sabah in 2000.
This particular tagal site for Kampung Suasa is along a 3km stretch of Sungai Terusan Suasa-Nabahan, a tributary of Padas River.
Speaking at a simple ceremony after seeing the catch being brought in by about 50 Kampung Suasa villagers who took part in the harvest, Wong said he had witnessed a bigger catch that day than before.
“That is a good sign and we shall make this kampung an example for other villages for conservation of udang galah,” he announced.
He also disclosed that two more udang galah tagal sites would soon be opened, one each in Sipitang and Beluran, and before the end of the year, there would be a total of six such sites in the state.
Wong said there are now a total of 465 tagal sites for conservation of river fish in Sabah.
The system has also been extended to Pahang and in many parts of Sarawak, although it is known there as tagang system.
Wong said in his speech that with the good example shown by villagers at Kampung Suasa, his department had received requests from neighbouring villagers for the tagal sites to be opened for them as well.
Hj Ruslan Muharm, chairman of the Udang Galah Tagal Committee at Kampung Suasa, said in an interview that in the past the village had faced problems from some fishermen who had used illegal methods in fishing prawns and fish from the river.
“There are no longer such illegal fishing practices, including the use of poison, now that we have introduced the tagal system here,” he said.
“When the villagers see the benefits of this conservation system, they begin to understand and the catch is now higher then before,” he added.
According to Ruslan, four other kampungs in the area have expressed an interest to follow suit, including Kampung Nabahan nearby.
He felt that the system should be extended in order to reduce the negative fishing practices since there is now better understanding of the tagal system.
During his visit, Wong presented a 21-foot fiberglass boat with a 30-horsepower engine on behalf of his department to the local tagal committee and also agreed to the kampung’s request for the construction of a shed by the river bank to serve as a monitoring point for its tagal site.
Among the officials present to witness the harvest by Kampung Suasa villagers were Abdul Kahar Hassan, the officer in charge of Fisheries Department in Beaufort; village heads Hj Kida Assan (Kampung Suasa), Badarikin Lundu (Kampung Nabahan), and Matjinah Samat (Kampung Lago).
Also there were officials from the Tagal System Unit and Communications Unit of the Fisheries Department in Kota Kinabalu.
by Joe Leong