Whispering the SOP out loud


Fishermen returning from sea and hauling in their catches for sale at Pasar Bisik in Penaga, Kepala Batas. — Photos: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

IT may be the conditional movement control order period but it is still hard to break the century-old habit of whispering at Pasar Bisik in Kuala Muda.

Kuala Muda Fishermen Unit chief Ariffin Mat said he faces an uphill task daily to ensure buyers and fishermen maintain physical distancing in this market where buyers, since over 100 years ago, would murmur the prices they are willing to pay in hushed voices close to the fishermen’s ears.

Ariffin said he had to regularly reprimand those in the complex to get them to adhere to the standard operating procedure (SOP) of maintaining a safe distance from one another.

“On weekends, we get 200 to 300 buyers and our committee works hard to remind them to abide by the SOP.

“We prohibit whispering as it is risky and two months ago, we installed steel barricades to prevent buyers and fishermen from getting close together, ” he said.

Azi showing his fresh catch and waiting for buyers to offer the best price at Pasar Bisik.Azi showing his fresh catch and waiting for buyers to offer the best price at Pasar Bisik.

Prices must now be voiced openly but some buyers are still seen whispering into the ears of fishermen to make their offers.

Meanwhile, several fishermen interviewed said they have been struggling to get their catches sold.

Many have to slash prices and push hard to convince customers to take their fish.

Fisherman Azi Ahmad, 43, who fishes off the coast of Pulau Kendi for Spanish Mackerels, Snappers and Groupers said business has been slow since the conditional movement control order (MCO) was reimposed.

“Groupers used to fetch RM70 per kg in February. Now I have to sell them at RM30 per kg.

Buyers and sellers conducting their bids for the catches of the day with a steel barricade between them to ensure social distancing.Buyers and sellers conducting their bids for the catches of the day with a steel barricade between them to ensure social distancing.

“Due to strict SOP, customers are not allowed to crowd and they no longer swarm around my boat when I return.

“My fishes used to be sold out by noon but now I have to keep them until about 5pm, ” he said.

Another fisherman, who wished to be known only as Pak Long, said there are fewer buyers these days.

“We only have traders coming in to get their regular supplies. We still spend six hours at sea daily to bring in fish. But there are not enough buyers to take all our catches, ” he lamented.

Outside the market, trader Mohd Noor Ibrahim, 62, who has been trading there for the past 25 years, said he used to sell about 100kg of fish when times were better while now, he could only sell about 30kg a day.

Visitors registering and getting their temperature scanned before being allowed entry into the Whispering Fish Market or Pasar Bisik.Visitors registering and getting their temperature scanned before being allowed entry into the Whispering Fish Market or Pasar Bisik.

“I have clams, squid, prawns, snappers, pomfrets, scads and other variety of fishes ready to supply in large quantities.

“But now, even restaurants and traders dare not buy in large quantities due to uncertainty and ban on organising feasts.

“The price of fish like Indian Mackerels (Kembong), which once fetched up to RM15 per kg, is now RM3 per kg, ” he said.

Mohd Noor said as prices of fish drop, many consumers can now afford to go for bigger fishes but prices of squid and prawns are consistent as they are scarce at sea.

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