Sabah is the major contributor to Malaysian fishery industry and one of the best fish producers in Asia. The products are exported to Asian countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.
Sabah is rich in diversity of fish species, however, the price paid in fresh seafood restaurants are rather expensive.
In order to attract more local and international tourists, delicious seafood dishes at reasonable price should be the long-term strategy.
Sabah has the longest coastline of approximately 1600 km, which is extending from the border of Sarawak in the Southwest to Indonesia in the Southeast.
Borders the South China Sea on its west coast, the Sulu Sea on its north east coast and the Celebes Sea on its Southeast coast, the total territorial waters of Sabah covers 55,828 km.
Owing to its geographical location which is surrounded by seas, Sabah has a gifted a great potential in fishery products. The coastal zones are rich in diversity of fish species.
Sabah fisheries commodities of export and imports consist of live fish, live crab, fresh, chilled and frozen fish, crabs and shrimp, fishmeal, fish fillets, and dried, salted or in brine fish products. Major export trading partners are Japan, Hong Kong, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and USA.
Sabah has a total of 20,000 fishermen and 8,500 fishing boats. The local fisheries produced 180,000 metric tons (MT) valued at RM590 million in 1997.
In 1996, overall fish production was 1,126,689 tonnes valued at RM3.3 billion. From this 994,144 tonnes were from coastal fisheries, 132,545 tonnes from deep sea fishing and 109,462 tonnes contributed by the aquaculture sub-sector.
The value of the 1996 fish production made up about 2.3% of the national GDP or some 3.5% of the agriculture GDP. In terms of labor employment, there were 79,616 fishermen active in the sector.
In 1997 export market, frozen crustaceans leads the export value with a total of RM145, 763,435 million worth of frozen shrimps, lobsters and crabs. This is followed second by export of fresh, chilled, frozen and dried molluscs (squid, cuttlefish and octopus) worth RM21, 161,784 million and third in place was the export of frozen fish worth RM21, 154,522.
In 1997, Japan topped the list by importing a total of 4,878.16 metric tonnes of fisheries commodities amounting to RM87, 145,017 million followed by Peninsular Malaysia, Hong Kong and Italy. The export figures have shown a rising trend.