Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Brunei Town

Noble tradition fading in significance

BERNAMA – While numerous traditions continue to thrive, there are some that face the risk of fading away.

One such example can be found in the aquaculture sector, where the age-old practice of oyster diving in Muar River, a prominent symbol of Muar, is now considered a vanishing occupation, with fewer than a dozen oyster divers remaining today. These Muar oysters are renowned for their exceptional quality and are in high demand among seafood enthusiasts, particularly those from Singapore.

The fishermen still use a traditional method to collect them, which is to dive into the river with no breathing apparatus.

The tradition, which has been passed down from previous generations is losing its lustre as oyster divers have aged and only a handful of young people are taking up the physically taxing and dangerous work.

At the crack of dawn, there are men at work, braving the elements.

Muhammad Nashrul Nizam Abu Rani, 22, is already at Kampung Pangkalan Tilam jetty as early as 6am to observe the water before getting ready for a day’s work as an oyster diver.

ABOVE & BELOW: Muhammad Nashrul Nizam Abdul Rani uses a bicycle basket to collect oysters from Muar River; separates oysters his father caught; and a man sells oysters by the Muar River. PHOTO: BERNAMA
Oyster diver uses a tree branch to navigate his boat. PHOTO: BERNAMA

He and several other divers begin their day by moving towards the shoals, a stone’s throw from the jetty, to hunt for oysters on the riverbed.

“This is our daily routine and there is no fixed time for work, only when the water is calm (between high and low tide).

“Oyster divers can easily find themselves in dangerous situations,” he told Bernama.

Despite the continuation of these traditions, the number of oyster divers is dwindling as many of the “old hands” have aged or have since died.

“It’s not easy to be an oyster diver as it requires endurance and one has to be strong and highly skilled to be able to stay down at the riverbed.

“This is not a job for the faint-hearted,” he said.

Despite his five-year experience as an oyster diver, Muhammad Nashrul Nizam still has the jitters every time he dives to collect oysters.

This is because of the potential risk of drowning, with divers having to dive six to nine metres deep into the river bed.

Working about three to four hours a day, he is able to collect about 90 oysters, to be sold to middlemen as well as restaurant operators from the district for MYR2 each.