South China Sea Fisheries Development and Coordinating Programme
Indo-Pacific Fisheries Council


Dr. Arkadiusz Labon
FAO Fishery Industry Officer (Economics)

This document, prepared on behalf of the South China Sea Programme, was based on visits to Malaysia in November 1973 and March/April 1974.

The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this document do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the United Nations or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory or sea area, or concerning the delimitation of frontiers.


The South China Sea Fisheries Development and Coordinating Programme (Phase I) was formally conceived by the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Council and its activities have been conducted in close collaboration with that body. The Programme is supported by the UNDP and is being carried out by the FAO Department of Fisheries. This paper, as well as others in a series referred to in SCS/DEV/73/1/Rome, forms the basis for the long-term Phase II programme outlined in that document. The Phase I programme was conducted as an identification project to reflect the wishes and needs of the participating countries for collaborative long-term comprehensive fisheries development. This particular document is the first in a series of country studies for specific assistance to the governments.

 A.G. Woodland
Programme Leader


The Government of Malaysia has decided to develop the country's fisheries in a harmonised, well-balanced way. With the system of national five-year plans already introduced, it has been decided to work out a long-term fisheries development plan covering the whole period of the New Economic Policy until 1990. This document, prepared with the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), covers an additional period of five years until 1995.

Sometimes a long-term development plan is referred to as a master plan. This term, however, seems to be confusing and therefore the document has been named “Malaysian Long-Term Fisheries Development Plan until 1995”, which reflects the character of the study. A long-term development plan denotes a set of comprehensive and fully consistent propositions formulated in broad terms. It serves as a development policy document expressed in quantitative terms and provides the rational for all subsequent development actions that follow it.

This document is the first comprehensive study covering the analysis of Malaysian fisheries development with particular reference to the period of the last ten to thirteen years (1960–73), the role of fisheries in the national economy, projections of demand for fish until 1995 and an outline of investment as well as other development activities needed to meet the demand. During the work on the document, several meetings were held with the Fisheries Division and other high level Government officials (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Economic Planning Unit, Implementation, Co-ordination and Development Administration Unit of the Prime Minister's Department) and the crucial elements of the Plan were discussed. It has been decided by the Government that this document be submitted to it in final form for approval and as soon as it is approved it will become the basic Government policy document for the Malaysian fisheries development.


The Food and Agriculture Organization is greatly indebted to the many Malaysian officials who assisted the expert in the preparation of this document.

The deep interest of the officials responsible for fisheries in the particular Government agencies has greatly assisted in the compilation and formulation of this comprehensive document.

Valuable assistance and guidance was given to the FAO expert by Dr. Seyd Hussain Wafa of the Economic Planning Unit and Tengku Ubaidillah bin Abdul Kadir, General Director of Fisheries, who gave generously of their time and greatly helped to clarify many policy matters. Mr. Yoong Swee Yin, Assistant Director General of Fisheries (Planning and Development), through his personal involvement and making available his highly qualified staff for the preparation of the essential data, enabled the expert to complete the assignment in a short period of two months only. Thanks are due to Mr. Tan Chen Kiat, Fisheries Director, Trengganu, for his very efficient liaison and compilation of the section on fishery resources, which was invaluable for the completion of the document. Thanks are also due to Mr. D.D. Venables for his assistance in editing the document.



The New Economic Policy (NEP) of Malaysia is aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating poverty and at accelerating the process of restructuring Malaysian society, so as to reduce and eliminate the identification of race with economic function. This should be achieved through increasing employment opportunities and raising income levels for all Malaysians. The basic elements of the NEP are social goals in the broadest sense, which should be achieved by economic means.

The development policy for the fisheries sector follows that of the whole national economy and translates the general policy objectives into more specific objectives related to this sector. The social goals, including increased employment opportunities in the fisheries industries, higher income for the fishermen and more active participation of the fishermen in fishery enterprises, will be achieved through development and maximum exploitation of the fisheries resources of the country in accordance with sound fisheries management practices.

One of the specific objectives of the Government Policy is to correct the imbalance between the underdeveloped fisheries on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, as compared with the relatively well developed west coast. Furthermore, the west coast catch has reached the maximum level the fishery resources can sustain within the present limits of operations, while the east coast fishery takes only approximately one third of the potential resources available within the present range of operations. The east coast fishery now exploits mainly pelagic resources of the coastal zone, the demersal resources being relatively untouched.

The availability of underexploited fishery resources off the east coast, which are able to support a substantial development programme, coincides with the Government's objective of concentrating development efforts on the east coast in order to improve the economic situation of the area.

Over the decade 1961–70, the fish catches in Malaysia were increasing at the very high rate of 7 percent annually, due mainly to the rapid development of the trawl fishery on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. This growth rate has been arrested since 1970, after which the production has reached its maximum at the present capital investment in fisheries. Any further growth in landings will have to be supported by substantial capital investment in both vessels and processing facilities and infrastructure.

Fisheries play an important part in three main aspects of the Malaysian national economy, as a major source of food, in earning foreign exchange and in the employment of the population. Fish represents almost two thirds of the total meat and fish consumption of the population and is the cheapest source of animal protein. The importance of fish as a foreign currency earner is gradually growing. In terms of value, fish had reached 3 percent of the total 1971 exports of Malaysia, the imports of fish being at a constant level of 2 percent of total imports. The percentage of manpower employed in fishing, as compared with the economically active population, is 3.76, which is very high, even by southeast Asian standards. However, the high employment rate in fisheries and the low level of investment reflected, e.g. on the east coast, by traditional, simple boats and gear, are the crucial factors of low productivity per fisherman and their low income rates.

The population of Malaysia in 1970 totalled 10 440 thousand people and it is expected that by the year 1995 it will be double or more than double of that of 1970. Accordingly, the demand for food will increase at an even higher pace because of the anticipated increase in real income per caput. The projected demand for fish for human consumption will amount to 690 000 t in 1995, which reflects the increase in population and only a modest increase in per caput consumption.

Fish meal is of great importance in feeding pigs and poultry, the two other main sources of animal protein for the Malaysian population. At present Malaysia is a net importer of fish meal, and it is the policy of the country to entirely eliminate imports of fish meal, since the domestic supplies of raw material fully justify local production. The 1995 demand for raw material for fish meal is 107 000 t.

In the absence of a thorough export study, it has been projected that net exports will increase by approximately 2 000 t/a on the average, reaching a level of 100 000 t in 1995. The total fish production thus will have to reach 900 000 t in 1995. The 1973 catch is in the order of 410 000 t.

The available resource assessments indicate that intensification of operations off the east coast may bring some 150 000 t of fish; 20 000 t may come from aquaculture and the remaining approximately 350 000 t will have to come from offshore fishing operations to be developed in the South China Sea.

The plan broadly outlines the investment, in terms of both physical facilities and finance, required to achieve the projected demand. The spheres of activity covered by the plan include the fishing fleet, aquaculture, ice plants, cold storage, harbours, canning and fish meal plants. The economic evaluation of the planned fisheries development has been made against criteria commonly accepted in Malaysia for this purpose. The specific indicators show the profitability of the planned development. Socio-economic aspects of the fisheries development have been analysed both in terms of employment opportunities and upgrading the fishing communities and in terms of anticipated increased income.


As soon as the Long-Term Fisheries Development Plan is approved by the Government, a number of pre-project feasibility studies will need to be carried out. Some of the functions will be pursued by the Fisheries Division, but others will have to be undertaken by other Government agencies, possibly in collaboration with foreign technical assistance. The type of assistance required may be obtained from the South China Sea Fisheries Development and Coordinating Programme, FAO, Asian Development Bank and other agencies. Appendix 3 gives a list of activities to be undertaken for the implementation of the plan.

It is recommended that the following activities be undertaken:

  1. studies on the location of fisheries complexes;

  2. feasibility studies and preparation of bankable projects in the specific spheres of the industry;

  3. analysis of needs for trained fishermen and implementation of suitable training programmes;

  4. restructuring of research institutions and modification of the structure of fisheries administration;

  5. review and modification of the legal and institutional set-up with a view to facilitating fisheries development;

  6. assessment of boatbuilding capacity and other industries related to fisheries.




Rome, June 1974

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1.1 The overall development policy of the country
1.2 Fisheries development policy

1.2.1 Development of fisheries 1971–75 as envisaged by the Second Malaysia Plan
1.2.2 Public investment expenditure in the fisheries sector

1.3 Review of past progress in the national economy
1.4 The place of fisheries in the national economy

1.4.1 Role of fisheries in food supply
1.4.2 Role of fisheries as foreign currency earner
1.4.3 Employment in fisheries

1.5 Major development in the fishery sector over the last decade

1.5.1 Catch
1.5.2 Disposition of catch
1.5.3 The state of the fishing industry

1.6 Tendencies for future development


2.1 Fisheries resources

2.1.1 Introduction
2.1.2 Coastal resources
2.1.3 Offshore resources
2.1.4 Inland fisheries/aquaculture

2.2 Fishermen
2.3 Fishing fleet

2.3.1 Fishing gear
2.3.2 Production

2.4 Structure of the Malaysian fishery

2.4.1 Inshore fishery
2.4.2 Offshore fishery
2.4.3 Distant water fishery
2.4.4 Fishing effort and productivity

2.5 The capital resources
2.6 Demand for fish

2.6.1 Fish for direct human consumption
2.6.2 Demand for fish meal
2.6.3 Exports for fish
2.6.4 Total demand for fish and potential resources


3.1 Fishing fleet

3.1.1 Projections of catch and required investment
3.1.2 Benefits accruing from the projected fishing fleet development
3.1.3 Factors influencing the fleet development
3.1.4 Assistance from the South China Sea Programme

3.2 Aquaculture
3.3 Harbours
3.4 Ice production capacity
3.5 Cold storage
3.6 Canning plants
3.7 Fish meal
3.8 Economic evaluation of the projected investment

3.8.1 Direct effects
3.8.2 Indirect effects

3.9 Development strategy

3.9.1 Private sector
3.9.2 Joint ventures
3.9.3 Government indirect involvement
3.9.4 International assistance
3.9.5 Some critical factors affecting fisheries development utilisation of catch
3.9.6 Structure of fisheries administration

Appendix 1 - REFERENCES





1. Selected development indicators, 1965–71
2. Meat and fish consumption, peninsular Malaysia, 1960–71
3. Balance of foreign trade in fishery commodities, 1968–72
4. Population and employment in fisheries - 1970 Census
5. Nominal catch - world total and selected countries
6. Estimated annual catch 1967–72 per unit of selected types of fishing gear in operation in Kodak, Penang, Perak, and Selangor
7. Disposition of catch, 1966–71
8. West Malaysian ice factories and refrigeration facilities as at 31 December 1972
9. Coastal resources
10. Offshore resources
11. Malaysia inland fisheries/aquaculture in 1972
12. Number of fishermen
13. Fishing boats (1972)
14. Types of fishing vessels (1972)
15. Estimated number of fishing gears in operation and their productivities (1972)
16. Fishing fleet (1972)
17. Production and productivity on the west coat (1972)
18. Production and productivity on the east coast (1972)
19. Production and productivity in East Malaysia (1972)
20. Average annual income of fishermen, 1972
21. Population projections 1970–95
22. Projected demand for fish for human consumption
23. Projected total demand for fish
25. Investment in aquaculture
26. Investment in harbours - 1974–1995
27. Ice production
28. Projected cold storage
29. Fish canning potential
30. Projected fish meal production
31. Summary of investment, return