Navigating through rough seas in JB

Kampung Pasir Gudang Baru, located about 20km from Johor Baru city centre, is a small village that contributes to more than 90% of the country’s mussel production.

Established in the 1980s, the village back then occupied 12ha of land and had a population of 120 people.

Today, it is home to more than 1,500 people from 200 families, with 40 of the families involved in traditional coastal fishing and mussel breeding activities near Straits of Johor and Sungai Masai.

A fisherman showing a mature ocean fish that is ready to be sold at the market.A fisherman showing a mature ocean fish that is ready to be sold at the market.

In 2019, over 1,000 tonnes was harvested by the villagers.

However, rapid development taking place at a nearby industrial area has started affecting villagers and their livelihood. This has led to villagers looking into other sources of income.

Southern Johor Fishermen’s Association chairman Azli Mohd Aziz said the Johor government has been providing financial aid to fishermen in the area since 2015 under the Johor Fishermen Development Fund.

“The financial aid covers any damage to fishing equipment or dwindling haul caused by ongoing development in the area, ” he told StarMetro during his visit to Kampung Pasir Gudang Baru fish market.

“This money is even more crucial for us, especially during this pandemic and monsoon season, so we are grateful for the state government’s assistance, ” he said, adding that each fisherman would receive RM1,000 annually.

Azli said the state government also requested for the association to find another suitable location to develop as a mussel farm and fish breeding area under its Fishing Industry Zones (ZIP) project.

“The state government has allocated RM300,000 for the new mussel farm and RM400,000 for the fish breeding project at Sungai Johor riverbank near Pengerang, Kota Tinggi.

“The Malaysian Fisheries Development Board (LKIM) and Fisheries Department are also conducting research on a new mussel farm at Sungai Balang, Muar and Umbai, Melaka, ” he said.

Azli says it is high time traditional fishermen change their ways of gaining income in order to survive.Azli says it is high time traditional fishermen change their ways of gaining income in order to survive.

Azli added that the project was important as it would give the country an alternative production site should the mussel farm in Straits of Johor be adversely affected in the future.

“Currently, this is the largest mussel farm in the country and pollution could wipe it out.

“The new project is expected to start in the first quarter of this year and if the new location is suitable, we will expand it, ” he said, adding that it was high time traditional fishermen changed their ways of gaining an income in order to survive.

The mussel farm project started in 1993, with less than 500m of collector lines involving 20 mussel farm breeders and now, it has grown to 3sq km in size and is managed by 2,000 farmers.

“LKIM has suggested that coastal fishermen head to deeper sea areas, from the current Zone A (5km from shores) to Zone C (30km from shores).

“But there were no takers as a majority were accustomed to their daily fishing routine.

“They prefer spending about four hours at sea and return home, whereas Zone C fishing requires more time at sea and might take weeks before they are able to return, ” he said.

Fishermen feeding fish at a farm in Gelang Patah, Johor.Fishermen feeding fish at a farm in Gelang Patah, Johor.

However, he added that the income would be much higher than what they received now.

“We have to start somewhere if we want this industry to survive, ” he said.

Azli said the association had also introduced an ecotourism tour package at the village in December 2019, but plans had to be halted because of the rising number of Covid-19 infections.

“The tour package is meant to be a way for fishermen to increase their income, as they would take tourists or fishing enthusiasts to visit the fishing raft at the mussel farm and fish breeding raft in Teluk Jawa.“Visitors will be shown how mussels are harvested and fish are caught at the farms.

“They will also be taken to a mini mangrove forest to see where the storks nest and other marine life in the area, ” he said, adding that the cost was RM30 for adults and free for children.

“The people in Pasir Gudang work in industrial areas and they need a place to spend time with their family during the weekend, so this is where the village can fill that need.”

Separately, Azli hoped that the state government would allow villagers to transform part of the 10ha land reserve near the village into a housing area for their future generation.

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