Soaring fuel bills force fishermen to stay ashore

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2006, 12:00am

Fishermen facing fuel bills as high as $130,000 a month are leaving their boats tied up rather than putting them to sea because they cannot make enough to cover their costs.

More than 1,200 fishing boats are sitting in typhoon shelters leaving their owners with no income and unable to find work, fishermen and a legislator said yesterday.

Their plight has brought a call for the government to offer subsidies to help the industry survive.

'Many other countries offer hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fisheries in the face of inflated oil prices,' Wong Yung-kan, legislator representing the fishing industry, said yesterday.

'I wish our government would do the same, and provide a long-term solution to the plight of fishermen. If the talks fail to yield satisfactory results, we may take extreme action.'

Mr Wong and fishing industry representatives will meet Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok on Friday.

Mr Wong yesterday met more than 70 representatives from different districts to discuss how to get their voices heard.

He said more than 80 per cent of the 1,400 boats fishing in the South China Sea had stopped work in the past two months, well ahead of the two-month ban in the waters from June to August.

The rising cost of fuel meant fishermen now spend about 80 per cent of their income on fuel.

Ng Choi-zai, who is still paying off the boat he bought for $3 million 16 years ago, said fishermen were desperate for help. 'Things have never been worse.'