Marine Fishing in Brunei Darussalam

           Brunei Darussalam is located in the northwestern part of Borneo. It has a land area of 5,765 and 130 km long coastline fronting the South China Sea. The total marine territorial area is estimated at about 38,600 covering the Brunei Fisheries Limits with the potential resources at MEY (Maximum Economic Yield) of about 21,300 mt. The physical features of the Brunei Darussalam’s water are partly continental shelves, having the total area of about 8,600 For the purpose of fisheries management, the fishing area is divided into four zones as shown in Figure 1.

Figure1. The fishing area and fishing zonation of Brunei Darussalam’s waters.

           In the global development of the capture fisheries, the quality of fishing gears and methods is an important factor especially in the exploitation of the marine fisheries resources and its impact on the marine environment. In Brunei Darussalam, capture fishery is still on its developmental stage but is wary of the experiences of the neighboring Asian countries. Its current posture is learning from the lessons of other countries that are now having problems on overexploitation and depletion of fish stocks that is mainly due to uncontrolled and destructive fishing methods and gears.

           The work described here is a result of a team effort of the staffs of the Department of Fisheries to provide a technical description of the existing fishing gears and methods in use in Brunei Darussalam as well as the technical inputs and assistance from the Training Department of SEAFDEC . It is aimed in improving the catch by modifying the gear. However, before any modification is made, a technical assessment of the existing gears and methods must be done and this is the primary objective of this report.


           Fisheries sector plays an important role in the economy of the country. The fisheries of Brunei Darussalam contributes about 0.2% in the GDP and is targeting a greater contribution by optimizing its annual potential yield of about 21,300 mt with the value of B$ 112 millions. Presently, fish remains the main source of animal protein for the people of Brunei Darussalam. One of the highest worldwide, per capita consumption of fish in 2004 was estimated at about 47 kg/yr. It is estimated that the fish consumption during 2004 is about 16,931 mt of which most are fresh fish. This section presents brief overview of the status of the capture fisheries of Brunei Darussalam, covering the resources and its characteristics as well as its management that are necessary towards goal of sustainable development of fisheries.


Figure 2 shows: The total annual production from both the commercial and small-scale fisheries of Brunei Darussalam from 1999 to 2005.

Figure 2. Annual trend in the total fish production from both the small-scale and commercial scale fisheries sectors.

           The total production of capture fisheries had increased from 9,620mt in 1999 to 16,069 in 2005 of which about 70% of the total production is contributed by the small scale fisheries.

           About 30% of the total production is contributed by the commercial fisheries sector that comprise the trawlers, purse seiners and long liners operating mainly in zone 2 and 3 of Brunei Fisheries Limits. The scenario of declining resource most especially in the nearshore areas is clearly shown in the performance of the trawlers. Table 1 presents the annual production from the major commercial fishing boats of Brunei Darussalam as well as the annual increase in the number of fishing boat units

           Other industrial fishing boats including commercial longlines (bottom set and the purse that re-started operating in 2001 and has minimal contribution to the total production.

Table 1. Marine fisheries production and number of units from among the commercial sector from 1990 to 2005

           Conversely, the pelagic fishing using purse seine contributed only about 1,235 mt in 2005 that is way below the expected MSY of about 7,000 metric tons per year. This means that the potential increase in the capture fisheries production relies on the development of the pelagic fishing especially in zones 3 and 4.


           In general, the marine capture fisheries have continuously provided more or less of 50% of the country’s supply of fish for over 20 years. And in recent years, a significant chunk in the local fish production of about 70% or about 12,329 mt (in 2004) is contributed by the small-scale fisheries sector. Majority of the fishermen in this sector are operating in zone 1, fishing area of within 3 nm from the shore. They use outboard engines to reach the fishing destination and operate the small-scale fishing gears such as trammel nets, hooks and lines, pots to name a few. Some had modernized their fishing techniques using electronics device such as the application of GPS, echo sounder as well as the fish finder.

           The estimated MSY among the small-scale fisheries sector is only about 6,400 mt (for both demersal and pelagic resources) with 98% from the demersal resources.

           The demersal fish production level in 1999 and 2005 (for both small-scale and commercial sectors) has increased but exceeded the MSY limit thus causing a decline in fish production in 2005 due to excessive fishing effort (in terms of fishing days).

           But despite the excess in fish production over MSY among major small-scale fishing gears, there is a general decline in the aggregate CPUE within the past 5 years or so that might be an indication of overfishing.

The level of the fish production among small-scale fishing gears exceeded the MSY level from 2000 to 2004 ranging from 5,083 mt to 12,239 mt as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Fish production of small scale fishermen using the small-scale fishing gears

           Consequently, a significant decrease in the catch per unit effort (CPUE) of the major small-scale fishing gears was noted. It means an increase in the number and units of fishing efforts (i.e., number of gears and fishermen and days) assuming catch is set constant and/or a drop in the catch compared to the earlier years. Figure 3 (1-4) shows the CPUE trend of major small-scale fishing gears in Brunei Darussalam.

Figure 4. CPUE trend of major small-scale fishing gears

(1) Ancau

(2) Andang jaran

(3) Kilong

(4) Tugu

Likewise, the number of small-scale fishermen has increased from 2,070 people in 2000 to 4,810 people in 2004 is as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Annual change in the number of fishermen.

Table 2. Number of small-scale fishing gears and estimated MSY.

           Based on the CPUE analysis conducted in 2004, the Department found that about 12 small-scale fishing gears as shown in Table 2 have exceeded the maximum efforts (units). This includes the following types of gears:
           • Ancau (ring net)
           • Andang karan (trammel gill net)
           • Andang jarang (bottom-set gill net)
           • Bubu (fish pot)
           • Kabat (barrier net).
           • Jaul/pancing (hand lines)
           • Pukat kembura (Surface gill-net)
           • Kilong (fish coral for deeper water)
           • Lintau (fish coral)
           • Rambat (cast net)
           • Rantau (drift gill net)
           • Tugu (tidal weir)

           Among the small-scale fishing gears, Jaul (hand lines) and Andang jarang (bottom-set gill net) yielded the highest contribution to the total production and MSY level among the small-scale fisheries sector. Overall, the aggregate MSY contribution of the small-scale fisheries sector is more than 6,400 mt based on the estimates using the fish production models.


           The goal of marine capture fisheries in Brunei Darussalam is to develop the marine fisheries towards the maximum economic yield. This goal is to be achieved through the formulation and implementation of the management strategies to increase the productivity, resource sustainability and equal share among the fishers. In general the objectives of the management are: -

           - To fully exploit the marine resources up to 21,300 mt at sustainable level;
           - To protect the nursery and breeding grounds through the establishment of marine protected areas;
           - To promote equal sharing of marine resources between the small-scale and the commercial fisheries sectors;
           - To promote the usage of selective fishing gears and environmentally friendly gears to minimize the wastage of under-sized fish; and
           - To increase the marine resource productivity through resource enhancement programs.

           Currently, some measures to mitigate the decline in the production and losses to trawl operation are being undertaken by the Department of Fisheries. These includes the limited number of licenses to the trawl fishery, mesh size regulations, zonation for fishing grounds and encouraging the trawlers to shift to pelagics fishing such as purse seine and long line operation. On top of that, the law enforcement capabilities of the Department have been strengthen in preventing the exploitation of the resources from illegal fishing.

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