Syazwani Hj Rosli
Hadi Marzoqki bin Haji Omar is determined to earn more for his young family, even if it means cresting the strong sea currents from the early light of dawn.
The 25-year-old Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) personnel felt that his salary was barely enough to support his wife and two children, and that was when he decided to venture into offshore fishing as a part-time business.
Offshore fishing is also considered as deep-water fishing, where the boats are more robust, the equipment needs to be sturdy and the fishes are harder to reel in.
“Fishing has been part of my life, since I was a child. My father started taking me to the sea with him when I was six, so I grew up catching fish to sell at the market,” said Hadi.
Hadi’s business began in 2017, when he obtained a loan and invested in an offshore fibreglass fishing-boat with twin engines, costing BND7,500.
As his passion for offshore fishing grew, he invested in a BND8,000 fish-finder to make the fishing experience more effective and much easier.
“When I first started out, I found my own fishing spots and began familarising myself with the environment so that I could easily navigate around, apart from using a compass and GPS,” he said.
Hadi usually sets out to the sea at dawn with his fishing partner. It normally takes two hours to arrive at their usual fishing-point from the shore, and they make the return to land at 9pm.
“I often use mackerel scad and trout for bait to catch species which include snappers, grouper, red snapper and yellowtail fish,” he said. “But when I use the jigging technique, I am able to catch Spanish mackerel and other pelagic fish.
“The biggest fish I ever caught was a cobia weighing 22kg with a length of almost his height. With the jigging, the largest I caught was a giant trevally weighing 31kg. However, each day is not the same; everyday is an adventure. There’s no way of knowing what will show up on the end of the line, and surprises are always part of the routine.”
When asked about the main challenge of offshore fishing, Hadi said, “When there is no catch for the day and even if we are blessed with plenty of fish, there will hardly be any buyers at the fish market. When this happens, I use my social media account or just go directly to restaurants to sell the catch.
“Alhamdulillah, there are times when my partner and I are blessed with plenty of fish, but on most days, we just return with an adequate catch. Between us both, we share the burdens, costs, profits and losses. We also set aside some of our income for the fuel and boat maintenance.”
How often does he go down to sea? “It depends on the weather,” said Hadi, adding that he prefers to go offshore fishing in stable weather and stay home during rough weather conditions.
“Once we were out at sea, when suddenly, the skies went dark and a strong wind began to blow. My partner and I attempted to get back to shore, but the boat engine gave out and my spotlight failed to work.
“The sea was very rough, with flashes of lightning close to our boat. I thought that we would drown, but Alhamdulillah, Allah the Almighty spared our lives, and my partner only suffered some minor injuries,” he said.
Hadi acknowledges that offshore fishing might not be for everyone because of the long hours, hard work and unpredictability.
“But when you ask those who have spent most of their time in the open seas, hear their excitement at a good catch and see their personal satisfaction of a hard day’s work, it really draws you in to try and experience it,” he said.
Hadi has also come up with a charter service named Juk’s Charter, which offers offshore fishing experiences for tourists and other fishing enthusiasts.
He said that he is privileged to follow in his father’s footsteps, with those experiences gained in childhood teaching him to be independent at such a young age.
“It is hard work, but I have no regrets about it. The experiences I had with my father taught me a lot. The sea, the water and the fish are a part of me, and I am proud of it. I am actually satisfied with the life that I lead right now,” he said.