Fishermen in Johor face danger and dwindling income

Livelihood affected: Del Jaton says massive development taking place along the coastal areas has caused a depletion in marine life.

JOHOR BARU: Del Jaton is a picture of despair when he looks out through the window of his small wooden shack at Teluk Jawa that overlooks the Johor Strait.

The 55-year-old Orang Seletar said it is hard to make a living as a fisherman now due to the massive development projects taking place along the coast.

The area was once known as a breeding ground for prawns, mud crab, and fish.

“It is now almost impossible to catch even three mud crabs as the mangrove areas are fast disappearing due to land reclamation.

“There are more than 30 Orang Seletar families in Kampung Teluk Jawa, and the sea has been our way of making a living for more than a century,” he said when met at his village recently.

Del pointed out that due to the depleted marine life, villagers like him had no choice but to fish near Pengerang, which is nearly 45km away from his village.

“Most of the time we will pool our resources by going in one boat as it is too expensive for us to buy diesel daily for a trip that takes nearly an hour one way.

“However, there are times when I will go alone and start out before the break of dawn as it is a long journey,” he said, adding that the presence of large vessels in Pengerang waters pose a danger to the fishermen in small boats.

Del also said the strong currents and waves also pose a risk, but he had no choice as he needs to provide for his family.

“Other than feeding my family, I also want to ensure my son receives proper education as I do not want him to have a hard life like mine in future,” he said.

When contacted, Johor Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries executive councillor Ismail Mohamed said the state government had taken several measures to help the Orang Seletar and other fishermen.

He stressed that the state government is currently talking with several developers to determine the amount of compensation to be paid out to fishermen whose livelihood has been affected by development.

“In the long run, the state government, together with the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Ministry, wants to help these people, especially the Orang Seletar, be involved in small and medium-scale industries,” he said.

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