Fair market for fishing community

Life support: Shalan attending to a customer buying fish at Pasar Pendekar Laut at Pendas Laut, Gelang Patah. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

ISKANDAR PUTERI: Located about 40km away from Johor Baru, at Jetty Pak Ngah in Pendas Laut here lies a small market that has been somewhat of a lifeline to some 40 fishermen from around the area.

The market, dubbed Pasar Pendekar Laut, is the brainchild of 35-year-old fisherman Shalan Jum’at who wants to give the fishing community here a chance of getting fair earnings for their hard work.

“We started operations in 2016 as a way to help fishermen get a fair price for their catch.

“Middlemen often enjoy a large portion of the profits from these catches, leaving fishermen hardly enough to cover the costs of going to the sea, including petrol expenses,” said Shalan in an interview.

He said he would pay fishermen contributing to Pasar Pendekar Laut about 90% of the market price for their catch and retained an average of only about 10% or even less for market expenses.

“Sometimes, if they only manage to get a small amount of catches, I will not take any charges.

“As a fisherman myself, I understand very well how hard things are for them.

“I started going to the sea when I was a small kid and saw how my father and grandfather put their lives at risk to get the catches but ended up being paid less than they deserved.

“I want the fishing community to be paid fairly for their craft and skills,” he added.

Apart from providing a fair marketplace, Shalan, who is also the founder of an environmental non-governmental organisation called Kelab Alami, also provides other support to help fishermen sustain their livelihoods.

“Some of them could not afford to buy petrol to go to the sea, others may need help in fixing their nets. I try to do what I could to help them,” he said.

Shalan said fishermen would start sending over their catches between 9am and noon daily.

“We open the market every day from 9am, where people could buy a variety of about 15 seafood including fish, crabs and prawns, depending on what is available on that day.

“Fishermen normally prefer to just give me the catch and take the money later after sales have been made. This shows how much they trust me,” he said, adding that the skilful eyes of fishermen could easily estimate the weight of their catch even before weighing them.

Shalan said Pasar Pendekar Laut started off with catches contributed from only three fishing boats, but has grown to some 40 fishermen.

Due to an increased number of unsold catches during the first movement control order, Shalan has also initiated a fundraising effort called the Big Fish Bailout programme to help the public and fishermen.

“There was an overflow of seafood supply during the first MCO that was left unsold. As a result, many fishermen were unable to earn a living.

“In an effort to help them, the Big Fish Bailout programme was initiated to collect funds from NGOs and others to buy these catches and later donate it to the poor and needy.

“This includes the homeless who were at that time relocated to a temporary shelter in Gunung Pulai,” he said.

He added that about RM80,000 was collected through the initiative over the course of three months and the sum had been channelled to the affected fishermen to lessen their burden.

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