PENGERANG: The movement restrictions nationwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic since March 18 are both a boon and bane for fishermen in Sungai Papan here.While the water quality in their fishing grounds have improved, resulting in more fish and seafood, they are facing problems selling their catch due to poor demand, especially from restaurant operators both in Malaysia and Singapore.
Fisherman Mohd Taufik Jumahat, 26, said their catch of ikan kerapu, ketam bunga, ikan merah and siakap was aplenty now.
“The problem is that many of our usual customers are not buying our supply as they have yet to reopen for business. Their restaurants have remained closed since the movement control order (MCO) was imposed.
“During the initial MCO period, we were badly affected. People stopped buying and we were left with a lot of fresh fish.
“Fish go bad fast and we had to find ways to clear stock. We managed to go around and sell them in neighbouring villages,” he said.
Taufik said ikan kerapu now cost between RM45 and RM50 per kilogramme while crabs were priced at about RM90 per kilogramme.
He and his fellow fishermen hoped their customers would reopen for business soon as they were very much reliant on the latter for their livelihood.
“There are 20 fishermen with families here,” he said.
His sister, Masdiana Jumahat, 35, said there was an abundance of lobsters in Sungai Papan.
“With the improved water quality, we will be able to catch more,” she said, adding there were many aquatic farms in the area rearing siakap, mussels, red fish and kerapu.
Masdiana said due to the MCO, not many visitors came to buy the fresh fish, resulting in low income.
Another local fisherman, known as Pak Razak, 52, said fewer ships were plying the area during the MCO, leading to clearer waters.
“With more fish and crabs in our waters, more people are coming to fish, including Orang Asli children,” he said.
He added that with the reopening of many businesses now, he hoped demand for fresh seafood would also increase.
Green Earth Society Johor president P. Sivakumar said members had carried out projects with the locals in the area, including providing them with fish fry and throwing effective microorganisms mud balls into the waterways to improve water quality.
He said the water quality had been dirty and murky a year ago but was now clear.
“We have taken samples of the water here to be tested as part of our ongoing project. I am happy the fish population in the area has increased due to less pollution in the area,” he said.
Sivakumar said Green Earth was committed to working with local communities, especially those living near waterways, to keep the environment clean for future generations.
“We want to educate the people to keep the rivers clean and not to treat the bodies of water as dumpsites,” he said.
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