Popular freshwater ikan patin is at a risk of being categorised as an endangered species if the water quality of Sungai Temerloh continues to deteriorate.
However, such a scenario would not happen overnight, but instead it could take between 30 and 40 years due to global warming.
International Islamic University Malaysia’s Marine Science Department head Associate Professor Dr Nur Nazifah Mansor said murky river water could lead to fish contracting diseases.
“Sometimes, this will result in death, and some diseases might delay the growth of fish or affect their quality. All these factors are damaging effects for aquaculture and fish farming.”
Nazifah, who studied fish health and disease, said practising proper farming methods, including feeding fish with suitable pellets and obtaining fish fry from recognised farms, could improve caged fish farming techniques.
Former state Fisheries Department director Datuk Adnan
Hussain said climate change could have affected the growth of ikan patin.
He said earlier this year, the water level in Sungai Pahang rose and dropped fast, which resulted in change in water temperature.
He said this affected the caged fish farming industry.
He said checks by the department revealed that the supply for ikan patin was stable despite the growing demand.
“There is a high demand from restaurant operators in the Klang Valley and we estimate that between 10 and 15 tonnes of fish are transported to Kuala Lumpur every week,” he said, adding that the ikan patin production in Temerloh was around 45 metric tonnes a month.
A Fisheries Department spokesman said murky river water could cause mud to enter fish gills, causing respiratory problems, growth delays and death of fish.
“This could be the case in Sungai Pahang, which has caused ikan patin to require more time to grow before they can be sold.
“Fish needs oxygen to survive and a lack of oxygen could be harmful,” he said.
Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said logging, especially in Ulu Tembeling near Taman Negara in Jerantut, had affected cage fish farms in Sungai Pahang.
She said the drop in harvest had affected the livelihood of fish breeders.
“Logging upstream and the clearing of hillslopes contributed to the prolonged dry season and floods, which resulted
in the drop in river water level.”
“Peka had, in 2015, raised concerns about sand mining along Sungai Pahang and logging upstream,” she said, adding that the authorities should keep the situation in check as the livelihood of many depended on it.
Restaurant operators affected by low supply of ‘ikan patin’
No trip to Temerloh can be considered complete without tasting ikan patin dishes.
Dubbed the “ikan patin town”, restaurants in Temerloh offer many ikan patin dishes, including crowd-favourite ikan patin masak tempoyak (silver catfish cooked in fermented durian paste).
Restaurants will be filled to the brim during weekends and public holidays, with some travelling from neighbouring states to taste the delicacies.
Go’bang Maju restaurant operator Muhammad Rizal Muhammad Rosli said his outlets were always a hit among customers.
The 39-year-old, who had been in the eatery business for more than 20 years, said although there were no reports of shortage, he noticed that at times, fish farmers could not meet the growing demand.
“I require about 10 tonnes of ikan patin every month to be distributed to four restaurants,” he said.
“I used to buy fish from a regular supplier, but lately, I am forced to depend on more than one supplier. Demand is there all year round and a drop in supply will affect my business.
“Sometimes, my suppliers cannot provide the required amount due to the monsoon and El Nino phenomenon. I am forced to get my supply from other suppliers, who, at times, demand a high price. But, I am left with no choice.”
Rizal also operates an outlet in Kuantan and two in Kuala Lumpur, which requires him to supply to the outlets several times a week.
Restaurant operator Kamariah Sidek, 37, said she had to ensure there was continuous supply of ikan patin at her eatery near Sungai Temerloh.
She said hundreds of people would flock to food stalls near the river during weekends and public holidays, and failure to provide enough supply meant that they were losing customers.
“My customers include top government officials and VIPs, and their only concern is the taste of the fish. We have to ensure that there is no shortage of supply.
“The monsoon and dry season result in a drop in supply, and even if there is supply, the size of fish is small and the price, expensive.
The mother-of-three said, sometimes, customers had to pay more to eat the fish due to limited supply.
She said the price of a cooked ikan patin, which was RM7 several years ago, was now between RM12 and RM14.