Chris Kong in Kudat fish landing sorting out fish with the locals
Originally from Labuan, grandson of a Chinese immigrant, Kong had worked as a seaman, teacher, and customs officer before becoming a crab fisherman. He made it his business to understand the life cycle of his main catch, the blue swimming crab, and is enlightened enough to leave juveniles and pregnant female crabs untouched. It takes a year for crabs to mature, he explains. The younger ones grow in the shallows before they move to the deep, which is why it is always more productive to cast his crab traps in deeper water of about 20-40 meters.
Kong says that most of the crabs caught in Kudat are not local, however. They are blown in by the southwest monsoon between September and November. Of late, however, the winds have been blowing for shorter periods, sometimes just three weeks instead of three months in the last couple of years, which means less crabs. Kong used to average about 180 kilos per trip, a figure which has gone down to about 30 kilos today, and he is waiting to see how this year’s season will go. He has observed the impacts of climate change, however. “I see rubbish on the road, brought in by the tide. That means the water can now reach the road. Kudat isn’t sinking; the water has risen!”
Kong may have to concentrate on fishing if the crabbing enterprise continues to flounder. In the meantime, he feels that businessmen and government authorities can work together to make sure that all fishing in Kudat remains sustainable. “We all live on the same island,” he says. “And our island is getting smaller every day.”