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Growing job opportunities excite fisherfolk

Growing job opportunities excite fisherfolk

Published by Malaysia Kini • 12/07/2021• 08:11pm

The sea has raised many families in the south Penang Island fishing community and put food on the table, but the dangers faced by fishermen every time they go to sea have made some hope for a better future for themselves and their children.


Fishermen like Idris Ismail, 66, are among those who hope for development in south Penang Island. He raised 14 children from his earning as a fisherman.

The income he earned from his haul was not bad, he said, but good catches were seasonal and the job was dangerous, apart from offering no future. Every time Idris goes out to the sea, the risks are always high, especially during bad weather.


After surviving a storm at sea a few years ago with one of his grandsons, the veteran fisherman from Teluk Kumbar said he did not want his grandchildren to follow in his footsteps and depend on the unpredictable sea for their daily earnings.


“The waves could have broken our boat into half, and I really thought the boy and I would die that day. I don’t want my grandkids to go through this. They should have safer jobs,” he said.

New life

Idris’ grandson Nur Adam Ifwat Anuar was 18 when the incident happened. Now 23, the youth has since found work as an operations assistant in the Penang South Islands (PSI) project. It was Idris who had discovered the vacancy and pushed the youth to apply.

Coastal fishermen fish in Zone A but they are allowed to go beyond 8 NM, which means their fishing area is much larger than the earmarked reclamation site.

Adam, who has worked for almost two years in the project, said his job mainly involved seeing to the daily operations at the fishermen’s one-stop service centre, Pusat Perkhidmatan Setempat Nelayan (PPSN) that was set up by the Penang Government – the project owner.


The staff at PPSN, which has offices in Permatang Damar Laut and Gertak Sanggul, are predominantly residents of south Penang Island, who have local knowledge in the fishing community and their way of life.


Adam said he appreciated the opportunity to learn new skills and experience work that came with a monthly salary that allowed him to save money.


“I have EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund savings) and a payslip that allows me to apply for bank loan. Fishermen have no payslips and can’t get bank loans,” said Adam, who recently became engaged and was planning to buy his first home.


His colleague Muhammad Dannie Rosli, 26, also welcomes the change in his life since getting a job in the PSI project, as the steady income has allowed him to provide better for his three children.


“After working at PPSN, I managed to buy a car for us,” said the former Permatang Tepi Laut unit fisherman, who is a single parent.


Being able to better provide for their families is one of the reasons some former fishermen are grateful for the job opportunities created by the PSI project. Mohd Noor Ismail, 38, another operations assistant at PPSN, is also among them.


Mohd Noor quit his fishing job after he nearly drowned in a storm when he was 23. He went to become a factory worker and a driver before he lost his job. After being unemployed for six months, he landed the PSI job.


“It is a terrible feeling when you are unable to provide for your family. I was very thankful I got this job. It was like someone threw me a line when I was drowning,” said the father of three.


“I hope PSI will bring a brighter future to my children as well. I want them to pursue higher education and get good jobs.”

Continuity for fishermen

Having benefitted from the project, these former fishermen’s positive view on PSI differs from the hardline stance taken by those against the project and claimed that PSI would destroy fishermen’s livelihoods.


This is a much-publicised false notion, which Idris and several other veteran fishermen rubbished, saying that the reclamation, which would start with Island B in front of Teluk Kumbar, would not block fishermen’s passage to sea or cause fish to go extinct.


“Should we not know better? Even today, we go beyond the reclamation area to fish. We have other fishing spots,” Idris said.


Sungai Batu fisherman Rashid Ahmad, 68, and Permatang Tepi Laut fisherman Fajinah Jaafar, 60, said fish and prawns were also abundant in the area near the Second Penang Bridge, which was popular among the local fishermen.


“There are other fishing grounds. Fish will breed elsewhere,” said another Teluk Kumbar fisherman Ang Hock Hin, 70.


Under the PSI development, which the Penang government aims to make ESG-compliant, a 250m wide navigation channel will be provided to ensure fishermen can continue to go to sea to fish.


Apart from that, the Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) drawn up with input from related government agencies and fishermen interviewed by PPSN, offers fishermen from nine south Penang Island fishermen units ex-gratia, training and education schemes, including free tuition for fishermen children, job opportunities, housing initiatives and others.


The fishermen from the Permatang Tepi Laut, Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul units located closest to the project site will also get a multipurpose jetty with tourism facilities, and three new jetties. Skippers (tekong) from these units will also receive new boats and high-power engines to travel faster and catch fish.

The Penang government has also pledged to implement mangrove planting around Penang, deploy artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices, release fish and prawn fry and other initiatives that will promote biodiversity and create nursing grounds for various marine species.

Others are benefiting too

PSI has yet to begin its reclamation phase but some non-fishermen Penangites have already starting reaping the benefits from the job creation, such as those involved in providing support services to the project.


This is in line with the state government’s commitment to give Penangites priority in recruitments for the PSI and PTMP projects.


Teluk Kumbar girl Siti Nur Amanina Hasmadi, 26, left her Putrajaya job to return home to care for her father who had undergone surgery. She helped out at her family’s catfish farm for a year before she landed a clerical job in the project’s human resources department.


“The Penang job market is tough. I had a hard time looking for a job until someone in my neighbourhood said I could register for a PSI job at PPSN.


“I was lucky to get hired late last year. More than 800 people had registered their interest in PSI jobs at PPSN to date,” she said, adding that the project would help many locals by giving them job opportunities.

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