In the tiny storm-lashed island of Perhentian, in the South China Sea, fishing is the only occupation of the few hundred inhabitants.
In the tiny storm-lashed island of Perhentian, in the South China Sea, fishing is the only occupation of the few hundred inhabitants. And although Perhentian is only 15 miles from the Malayan mainland, the turbulent China Sea makes even fishing a hazardous occupation, particularly during the monsoon season.
The fish catch is usually sold or bartered on the mainland for other essentials like rice, some clothing etc. But there is another product in abundance around the island - clams. And since clams do not always fetch a price in the market, the divers collect them for food.
But you can't get something for nothing..and around the easy-to-pick clams lurk dangerous sharks. There are hundreds of them in the Perhentian area. All the year round fishermen play the dangerous game of hide and seek with their blood-thirsty enemies. Just as the shark prepares to pounce on his victim, the fisherman makes, normally safely, for the boat. Fishermen say they have had many "close shaves" with sharks, and our cameraman himself was menaced although he did not attempt to collect any clams at all.
Once a sizeable quantity of clams has been collected, the fishermen put back to the island, or some of them go to the mainland where they might find a customer for the clam shell. Shells are sold to tourists as lamp shades and fancy ash trays, fetching a moderate price. The clam flesh is edible and the fisherwomen make appetizing dishes - at least some consolation to those who defy the sharks.