The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge is an annual off-shore fishing competition initiated in 2004 by the Joran Unit of Berita Harian, a popular Malay language national newspaper in Malaysia.
For all the past years it has been held at the sea off the town and serene beaches of Kuala Rompin in Pahang, about 125 km south of Kuantan.
The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge actually takes advantage of the active migration season of the billfishes, such as marlin and sailfish (istiophorus platypterus), passing the Rompin area from the northern hemisphere to their destination in Australia, during the months of March to September.
This annual billfish migration, passing through the area in their thousands, could be seen and identified through satellite tracking.
And one reason for their presence off the sea at Rompin is the abundant availability there of shoals of anchovies and other small fishes that make up their food during this season.
The reefs at Rompin, namely Karang (Reef) DO, Karang Cha, Karang Batu Mati, Karang Bubu, Karang Luas, Batu Berhala, Karang Rompin, Batu Saga and Tukun Tayar provided some of the best resting places for the billfishes before they move on.
This was observed and confirmed during the years the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge competition was held.
One of the objectives for the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge is to attract tourists to the state of Pahang, especially tourists who prefer adventure and eco-friendly sports.
The tourism industry in fact contributes about RM1.8 billion to Pahang state’s annual revenue, with more than 5 million tourist arrivals to the state.
Hotels in Pahang, especially those along the beautiful beaches facing the South China Sea, have benefited from the increase in tourist arrivals from all over the world.
RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE RPBIC COMPETITION
Like all competitions, there are important rules and regulations to be followed by participants of the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge.
These rules of conduct are mostly based on the international standards set by The Billfish Foundation and The International Game Fish Association (IGFA).
The most important competition rule of course is that the competition is based on the concept of catch and release.
This means that when a sailfish is caught, it is measured, weighed, tagged (and photographed) and then released back to the sea. There is a strict time limit of 3 minutes to record and do all these acts so as not to harm or injure the fish.
It is an eco-friendly sport, consonant with international standards and practices for billfish fishing tournaments and competitions.
Participants are allowed and given specific time duration of 16 or 17 hours to catch the sailfishes during the 2 days of competition.
Other rules to be followed by participants include the requirement that each team (each boat) must be at least 100 meters away from other competitors, meaning they cannot be too near fellow competitors as that may disrupt availability of the sailfishes or get their lines entangled.
The rules also provide that only authorised and appointed marshals approved by the Malaysian Fishing Association follow the teams on the boat, ensuring a professional approach to the competition.
The appointed marshals are tasked with the responsibility of making and keeping the record of catches by the team, and they verify the measurement and weight of the fish before release, so as to be in line with international billfish fishing practices and standards.
The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge has grown in popularity and participation since its inception in year 2004.
The growing interest is indicated by the increase from 69 participants with 23 teams in 2004, to 99 participants and 33 teams in 2005. And in 2006, the number of participants increased to 120 with 40 teams.
In 2006, teams from 13 foreign countries took part. Besides Malaysia, the sailfish enthusiasts came from Singapore, Phillippines, Japan, China, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Indonesia and France.
Also as an indicator of the competition’s popularity, during RPBIC 2005 there were 87 sailfishes caught and recorded, while in 2006, the number recorded was 185 sailfishes.
The organiser, the nation-wide Malay language Berita Harian newspaper, together with sponsorship and support from the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and the Pahang state government, had successfully attracted more than 250 sailfish fishing enthusiasts and 50 teams from all over the world to participate in the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge 2007 which was held on 3rd – 5th August 2007.
This prestigious annual event is now recognised by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), and the winning team of this competition will be invited to compete in the IGFA Offshore World Championship.
Well, to sailfish fishing enthusiasts, the fun in this Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge is of course seeing the sailfishes flying above the water and doing their acrobatic acts in the sea when caught in the tackles.
The skills and knowledge required of reeling in the sailfishes once they are caught, is very essential as many novice participants lost a few of their catches due to inexperience and lack of the necessary fishing skills.
And of course, the joys and thrill of releasing these beautiful fishes back to the sea are as much or maybe more, as the fun and thrills of catching them.
Let them live and thrive in their annual migration around the world, and the world will be an interesting and thrilling place to live for all generations of humans.
Well, happy catching, and all the best, to all participants of RPBIC.
As always, from me ...
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