October 25, 2023
KUALA LUMPUR – While many traditions are still thriving, some are at risk of dying out.
In the aquaculture sector, oyster diving in Muar River – Muar’s prominent landmark – is categorised as a sunset vocation with less than a dozen oyster divers today.
Muar oysters are believed to be among the highest quality in the world and are highly sought after by seafood lovers especially among Singaporeans.
The fishermen here 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.
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 RM2 each.