He witnessed first hand the challenges and danger to satisfy the public’s consumption for seafood.
“I saw with my own eyes how my father struggled daily to earn a living for us.
“When I grew up, I was disappointed to see fishermen being treated unfairly.
“Despite going through all the obstacles to get their catches and putting their lives at risk, fishermen hardly get enough to go by,” he said in an interview.
Shalan, 35, said middlemen often enjoyed most of the profits while fishermen earned very little for their hard work.
“Sometimes, the money they earned would not be enough for them to even cover their expenses to go out to the sea,” he said.
To help the fishermen, Shalan opened a market at Pendas Laut, Gelang Patah, in 2016.
He would pay fishermen contributing to the market, dubbed Pasar Pendekar Laut, about 90% of the market price for their catch and retained an average of about 10% or lesser for market expenses.
“Sometimes, when they could only bring a small amount of catch, I will not take any charges.
“They will send their catch between 9am and noon daily, which we sell to customers on the spot.
“There are now about 40 fishermen contributing their catch to the market and they come from several villages nearby,” Shalan said, adding that he started off with only three boats.
Pasar Pendekar Laut, which got its name from P. Ramlee’s Pendekar Bujang Lapuk film, is also a place where fishermen could come together to help each other.
“Sometimes, if one of their boats breaks down, I will help to repair it myself or seek the help of other fishermen to work together to fix it. The same goes with their fishing gear.
“I want Pasar Pendekar Laut to be more than just a market but a platform for the fishing community to help and learn from one another,” he said.
Shalan, who is also the founder of an environmental non-governmental organisation called Kelab Alami, also encouraged fishermen to practise sustainable fishing.
“For instance, if a species that is almost extinct is caught, I will tell them to release it back into the sea. The same goes to small fish and other sea creatures.
“I will also upload videos of us releasing them back into the sea on social media to educate the public,” he said.
Moving forward, Shalan said he planned to help local fishermen to dive into eco-tourism by providing floating raft cabins for recreational fishing.
“At the moment, five fishermen have showed interest on the initiative. We are in the initial stages of preparing the raft.
“For now, we will start with one raft and are looking into renting it to fishing enthusiasts very soon,” he said, adding that he hoped these initiatives would pave the way for fishermen to have better earnings to support their family.
For his noble efforts, Shalan is recognised as one of the 10 winners of Star Golden Hearts Award 2021, an annual award that celebrates everyday Malaysian unsung heroes.