TRADITIONAL fishing is no longer the most viable income creator for fishing communities in Malaysia as most known commercial fish species are near extinction.

Associate Professor Dr Aileen Tan of Universiti Sains Malaysia saw a solution in oyster farming as an alternative aquaculture activity that would provide a sustainable income for fishermen.

“Oyster farming is considered as a green aquaculture since filter-feeding mollusks can decrease eutrophication (excessive nutrients in a body of water such as fertilisers and waste) effects on the coastal environment.

“They do not need to be fed, unlike fish or prawns, as they feed on phytoplankton, which is a natural food,” the principal investigator said.

She said oyster farming was simpler than traditional fishing and could be adapted by fishing communities far from industrial areas as it only needed “a floating raft, regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure good growth and survival of the oysters”.

“However, local communities do not have the financial means to invest in setting up the rafts for as well as getting seeds from the wild,” she said, adding that they also lacked information or means to market oysters.

As oyster farming requires low technology and low labour, it can be done on a part-time basis and local communities can still maintain their activities.

Therefore, they can generate additional income for their families once the oysters reach marketable size in 8 to 10 months.

In view of this, the Division of Industry and Community Network in USM has engaged a fishing community in Merbok, Kedah and initiated a programme known as “Knowledge Transfer Programme” (KTP).

“In KTP, technological development and the knowledge of farming methods are transferred to the local communities and marketing agencies are assigned to buy-back the oysters cultured by the local communities,” she said adding that the government provides initial funding to kickstart the programme.