At the back of many single-storey houses in Kuala Sungai Pinang runs a river that links to the sea. This is the “Venice of Balik Pulau” for Eddie, a village where fishing has been a way of live for over fifty years.
Today, only those in their fifties and above remain in this trade. The younger generation prefers to work in the cities. Mostly men go out to sea, on old wooden boats that puff out diesel soot. Women wait on land to help sort out the yield, including prawns, squids and pomfrets. A 63-year-old fisherman we tagged along, Tong Cheap Haoi, teases his rotund wife: “If she had gone out to sea with me she wouldn’t be such a heavyweight!”
Within 15 minutes, Cheap Haoi’s harvest is sorted out and stored, but really because there isn’t much. He estimates RM200 of revenue, barely enough to cover labour and diesel costs. “A wasted trip,” he says, but still manages a smile. He blames the fishing trawlers for leaving him with only 20 per cent of how much he typically harvested in the 1970s. And there used to be crabs all the time. What his wife happily takes home today is their first crab in two months.
Despite their predicament, the couple makes the best of what they have. Really. They make the best salted fish with the gourami they caught. We wish we could take that away from him, but that would make us no different from the trawlers.
Kuala Sungai Pinang
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