Reclamation Brings End to Muara Angke Green Mussel Fishermen

Reclamation islands cause green mussel fishermen have to suffer losses because the area to farm green mussels gets narrower.

The situation of Muara Angke fishermen village was quiet on that afternoon. There were not much activities in the village that was well known for their green mussels farm. A line of holed and broken-down tarpaulins where women of the village usually gather to peel shells was vacant. They stood together with the fishermen’s soiled houses.

Some stalls are even broken and abandoned. Furnaces and oil drums that used to be full of boiled green mussels are now empty and left abandoned on piles of boards and trash. On the coast, not far from the village, some fishermen are seen sitting down in front of their huts and looking to the shores where new reclamation islands are developed.

The fishermen are worried about their future as they source of living disappears day by day. They were complaining about how difficult it is for them to make a living from green mussels farm because of the North Jakarta coast reclamation project.

Their profession as fishermen, which they have been into for generations, is now in danger. Reclamation islands cause green mussel fishermen have to suffer losses because the area to farm green mussels gets narrower.

Syarief (39), a green mussel farmer who’s also a vendor of boiled green mussels, said their income gets lower because it’s getting harder to catch green mussels in Muara Angke. "It’s getting more difficult, we used to catch them from the coasts, and now we have to look for them at Tanjung Kait Serang," Syarief said to in Muara Angke some time ago.

He said that he’s forced to look for green mussels in Serang to make a living for his family. "We’re now not allowed to catch mussels near Muara Angke because the Jakarta Provincial Government forbid us, it’s okay to go far (to get mussels) as long as my family has something to eat," said the man who have been working as a green mussel fisherman since 2009.

Suddenly, Syarief remembered the situation of Muara Angke a few years ago. The area was productive to earn money from green mussels, far before the North Jakarta reclamation project started. They caught tons of green mussels easily on the shores of Muara Angke.

"Back then, the reclamation island was green mussels far. Now, 3,000 green mussels farm have been dredged, we used to catch tons of mussels, and now we only got a few kilograms," he said.

Syarief claimed that his income from farming green mussels falls drastically, and he said that many green mussels farmers have become merchants, construction workers, and many other. "We only earn 30% of our previous income, we used to deliver the mussels to many places like Cirebon and Surabaya because we caught tons of them, and everything gets different now. Many of green mussels farmer went back to their hometown, sell their boats and use small boats," he said.

Samsudin (50), green mussel farmer and seller, experienced the worse situation. He has lived in the same area at Blok Empang since 2000. Samsudin had to face bankruptcy because the reclamation projects made him catch less green mussels. Samsudin was well-known as a successful green mussels fisherman, and he had a big boat and green mussels farm.

"Yes, I got bankrupt, I couldn’t earn anything from selling the mussels, I couldn’t catch anything from the sea. I used to catch 1000-2000 buckets of mussels, and now I can only catch 100 green mussels, and sometimes I catch nothing," said the man from Cirebon.

Samsudin is now confused about how to make a living for his wife and three children. "I had several houses for rent, and I sold them one by one, and now they’re gone," he said.

Finally, Samsudin forced to work as a labored in a fish auction not far from his house to feed his family. "I become a laborer, if someone asks me to work on something, I will do it, I don’t have another choice," he said.

Now, Samsudin can’t expect much about his and his family life sustainability in Muara Angke. Samsudin only hopes he can make a living from another profession. "For now, I save the money I earned from the fish auction to go back to my hometown," he said.

The reclamation project started at the beginning of 2016, and slowly threatens the lives of Muara Angke green mussels fishermen like Syarief and Samsudin. Sea produce that used to be abundant and became the source of living of Muara Angke fishermen become hopeless.

There are only two choices for the small fishermen, keep fighting in this hard situation as a green mussels fisherman or go back to their hometown and change their profession. The Jakarta Bay reclamaion has slowly putting the green mussels fishermen to their end. ( /Edy Susanto)