Illegal Fishing Methods

Reef Stakes® highlight two illegal fishing methods in our game: Cyanide fishing and Fish bombing.

Cyanide fishing

Remember the movies of “Finding Dory” and “Finding Nemo”?

The plot revolves around their family members escaping from aquariums. In fact, most tropical fishes like Dory and Nemo are caught using a fishing technique called cyanide poisoning. Cyanide is a metabolic poison that  stuns the fish making them easier to capture. This technique began in the 1960s to supply the international aquarium trade.

But since the early 1980s, a spike in demand for fish such as groupers and snappers as food has increased the harvest of live reef fishes mainly for restaurants in Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China. This trend is also increasing in Malaysia too.

Incidentally, reefs are also affected by cyanide. Research has shown that cyanide can lead to bleaching and eventual death in corals. For every live fish caught using cyanide, a square meter of their coral reef home is killed.

Malaysians love our seafood, especially fishes; maybe it is high time we start thinking about our seafood consumption patterns and how each of us can play a role to conserve our marine resources for future generations. Find out more how you can consume seafood sustainably here.

In the game, we show that cyanide fishing is harmful to nature.

Sources: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Save our

Fish Bombing / Dynamite fishing

Fish bombing has contributed to massive destruction of Southeast Asian coral reefs over the past 20 years. It is probably one of the biggest threats to coral reefs in Malaysia. This problem is particularly pervasive in Sabah with more than 20 bombs are set out in every day.

Through this technique, dynamite or other explosives are set off underwater. Fish in the vicinity will be killed or stunned by the blast, and float to the surface for easy collection by the bombers. However, these explosives destroy the underwater environment including delicate coral reefs, leaving only rubble behind. Although this practice is illegal worldwide, it persists due to the challenges of detecting, responding and catching the perpetrators.

However, the formation of Sabah Anti-Fish Bombing Committee which consist of local partners including Sabah Environment Trust, WWF Malaysia, ReefCheck Malaysia, and DHI Malaysia are committed to the long-term protection and sustainability of its precious marine biodiversity through a network of appropriately managed Marine Protected Areas. This includes developing law-enforcement capacity to stop fish bombing in Sabah and the region, by combining spatial data to identify fish bomb locations with surveillance data.

In the game, we show that fish bombing can destroy entire reefs.