Report on Working visit on Kelah Study to Kuala Krai and Sungai Nenggiri

by:
Hanan Mohd. Yusof
Fisheries Research Officer
Freshwater Fisheries Research Centre,
Batu Berendam, Melaka

Objective of the visit:

To conduct preliminary surveillance and collection of samples for the study on the systematic and phylogenetic relationship of Ikan Kelah from various sources using molecular markers.

Visits by :

Mr. Hj. Rosly Hassan (Head of centre), Mr. Ahmad Ashhar Othman (Senior Research Officer), Mr. Hanan Mohd Yusof (Research Officer) of FFRC and Mr. Hj. Zakaria (Fisheries Officer) of Aquaculture Department, Department of Fisheries Head Quarters.

17th January 2005 (Monday)

Kuala Krai, Kelantan

Mr. Hj. Rosly and Mr. Hj. Zakaria being briefed by Mr. Che Abdullah on the Tilapia hatchery.

Mr. Hj. Rosly and Mr. Hj. Zakaria being briefed by Mr. Che Abdullah on the Tilapia hatchery.

The visit started with RISDA’s Fish and Orchid Production Centre at Kampung Bukit Sireh and the group was entertained by Mr. Che Abdullah Jusoh, the Branch Manager. Currently, they are capable of producing 200,000 of Red Tilapia fries every month. However, owing to the great demand from local farmers, RISDA is seeking help from the department in terms of advice to increase their production to cater for the current and future needs of the customers.

Next, we visited Mr. Mokhtar’s Kelah farm at Lata Rek, Kuala Krai. Starting as a hobby, Mr. Mokhtar foresaw the future prospect in culturing Ikan Kelah, he collected juveniles from a nearby river adjacent to Kampung Lata Rek. At present he has stocked in approximately few hundred fish of various sizes in his grow out ponds. The specimens of the Ikan Kelah collected have not been identified, but it is probably Tor tambra. Morphologically, the fish has a short median lobe on the lower lip. For further identification and study purposes, a few samples of scales from the fish (approximately 1 kg in body weight) were taken.

The Kelah's pond is supplied with sufficient fresh and clean water from a nearby stream.

The Kelah’s pond is supplied with sufficient fresh and clean water from a nearby stream.

Samples of Kelah scale were obtained for DNA study

Samples of Kelah scale were obtained for DNA study

Short median lobe of Mr. Mokhtar's Kelah most likely identifies it as Tor tambra

Short median lobe of Mr. Mokhtar’s Kelah most likely identifies it as Tor tambra

Kelah fry feeding on termites

Kelah fry feeding on termites

During the later part of the day, we visited Mr. Hj. Awang’s farm, located further inside of Kampung Lata Rek. Mr. Hj. Awang has been collecting and culturing Ikan Kelah for a long time. Currently, he estimated his fish collection to be in the region of a thousand specimens. He is still actively collecting Kelah fry form a nearby river to supply the demand from his customers both local and even outside Kelantan.

An interesting piece of information gained from Mr. Hj. Awang is that fry feeding on termites showed a faster growth. The fish seem to relish eating termites. A few samples of Kelah scales were taken from his tank for further study.

 

18th January 2005 (Tuesday)

Sungai Nenggiri, Gua Musang, Kelantan.

 The three-hour journey upstream to Kuala Jenera of Nenggiri River


The three-hour journey upstream to Kuala Jenera of Nenggiri River

The trill of a long three hours upstream journey by boat from Kampung Star to Kuala Jenera was meant to visit the site area of the Kelah Sanctuary of Sungai Nenggiri which was managed by Titiwangsa Heritage, a non-governmental organization body. However, disappointment awaited as we were not able to see any Kelah freely swiming in the water as the river was too cloudy due to a very recent flood. The Sanctuary area was gazetted by the State Government in November, 2003 to preserve the fish natural resources from extinction especially the Kelah. The local villagers informed us that, previously, some locals and outsiders had been using explosives and poison to get the Kelah from the river. However, since the area has been gazetted, this problem has greatly decreased.

Acknowledgement:

The FFRC would like to express its appreciation to the Director of Research for the permission of Kelah study. Special thanks also goes to the State Fisheries Department especially Mr. Adibi, RISDA, Mr. Che Abdullah Jusoh and Mr. Hj. Awang for a pleasant and fruitful visit.

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Working Visit on Kelah (Pelian) in Sabah

by:
Dr Subha Bhassu
Fisheries Research Officer
Freshwater Fisheries Research Centre,
Batu Berendam, Melaka

Objective:

To study the success of the Tagal System: A Sustainable Community-based Fisheries Resource management on Riverine Fishery in Sabah and collection of samples for the study on systematic and phylogenetic relationship of Kelah from Sabah using molecular markers.

Visits by:

Mr. Hj. Rosly Hassan (Head of Centre), Mr. Ahmad Ashhar Othman (Senior Research Officer) and Dr Subha Bhassu (Research Officer) from Freshwater Fisheries Research Center, Batu Berendam, Melaka.

11th January 2005(Tuesday):

At 9 am, Mr Jephrin Zefrinus Wong, Pengarah Perikanan Negeri Sabah gave us a presentation on Tagal System. The presentation covered on the reasons behind the implementation of the Tagal System, what is Tagal system and how does it work, strategies to make Tagal system sustainble, the present status of Tagal in Sabah, roles played by Fisheries Department and a new plan to promote eco-tourism ( sport fishing) on Tagal.

Before Tagal was implemented, the number of Pelian population has been dwindling over the years due to habitat destruction and overfishing. To address the problems, Department of Fisheries Sabah focused on 2 strategies which is to encourage aquaculture and restoration of the resources through the Community-Based Fisheries Resource Management (The Tagal System).

The question that ran through our mind was what is Tagal?

Tagal is a kadazandusun word = fishing is prohibited by the community on river for a certain period as agreed by the community.

Its objective was to restore the depleting fisheries resource, to prevent pollution to the rivers and to generate income to the community. In this system, the community will form a Tagal commitee to look after and to manage the fisheries resource in their river. The main advisor is the District Fisheries Officer.

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The unique feature of the TAGAL is the sign board that if you break the prohibition rule, the community will stop you. This was very interesting because the Implementation of Sabah laws that empower the local community / Tagal committee to protect and manage the fisheries resources in the TAGAl sites / zones under Section 58 of the Sabah Natives Courts and Section 36 of the Sabah Inland fisheries.

In his presentation he covered areas on how to start a TAGAL in a selected river, how to form a commitee and their responsibity, strategies to make TAGAL system more sustainable.

This is interesting for the TAGAL zone is divided into red, orange and green sectors.

  • The sites are colour coded:
  • Red zone : Forever untouchable
  • Green zone: annual communal harvesting allowed
  • Orange zone: fishing once a year

In conclusion of his presentation, the TAGAL system is succesful with full support from the community as the number of TAGAL sites is still increasing as we write this report. To this date, the total number of TAGAL sites is 179. The system is sustainable because of this four following elements which is:

  1. Element of conservation;
  2. Element of equal share on the fish among members;
  3. Element that they can get at least a fish, from the Tagal zone whenever they want, for own consumption;
  4. Elements of access to the TAGAL fund if they need to.

At 1030 am, Mr Jephrin Zefrinus Wong took us for a visit to four TAGAL sites, including the first model TAGAL system at Freshwater Fisheries Station at Barbagon. Excitement and anxiety were our feelings when we walk to the other side of the river on a hanging bridge. It was a beautiful place. This station is just beside the road and you will be able to see Kelah. Below are some pictures of the Barbagon Freshwater Fisheries Station. As promised, we were fortunate to see Kelah.

The rocks is where you can find kelah most as they love the fast flowing water

The rocks is where you can find kelah most as they love the fast flowing water

This part of the river, you will see the small and medium size Kelah as the water is calm. This is the Barbagon river

This part of the river, you will see the small and medium size Kelah as the water is calm. This is the Barbagon river

Pelian is the common name for Kelah. However their species is yet to be identified. There could be 2 possible species recognized using taxonomic keys based on the median lobe. (Ahmad Ashhar, pers comm). We took some scale samples from the live fish. It is non-destructive sampling as we did not hurt the fish. This is something that you have to see for yourself as the TAGAL community in Sabah love the fish and took so much pride in taking good care of them. Below are some pictures on the collection of scales.

Pelian caught and kept in a container for identification and scales were obtained for DNA study. The colour of pelian is magnificant and has beautiful golden colour.

Pelian caught and kept in a container for identification and scales were obtained for DNA study. The colour of pelian is magnificant and has beautiful golden colour.

Short median lobe of Pelian

Short median lobe of Pelian

Samples of Kelah scale were obtained for DNA study and kept in tube containing ethanol

Samples of Kelah scale were obtained for DNA study and kept in tube containing ethanol

Then we were brought to another 3 tagal sites and we had the opportunity to see the most beautiful site where at one tagal, we saw different populations of Kelah. From our description, there were many different sizes of the fish, ranging from small ones to the big ones. These fishes are indeed spawning and breeding. Clearly the implementation of TAGAL had taken its first step in conservation measures.

Kelah of various sizes swimming in this clear river system. The river is clear and unpolluted

Kelah of various sizes swimming in this clear river system. The river is clear and unpolluted

Overhelming picture of Kelah swimming everywhere has given hope for the Government of Sabah to generate the local economy on ecotourism (angling). The people of Sabah who took conservation issues as their responsibility is surely something to be proud of by we Malaysians. We believe the Department of Fisheries Sabah played an important role in managing the whole TAGAL system. May their efforts and their model allow us in taking lead in our pursue to conserve this fish in the Peninsular Malaysia. For sure if you love Kelah, take the first flight to Sabah and see the people that loves Kelah and its protected habitat.

 

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