This Malaysian Fishermen Uses Sound to Hunt, and May Be the Last of His Kind

by Owen James Burke


68-year-old Malaysian ‘fish listener’ Harun Muhammad, who’s spent his life fishing the Setiu lagoons along Malaysia’s east coast. He chases gelama, a type of croaker (Micropogonias undulatus), which makes a sound that he likens to pebbles being dropped into water. He still has a crew of a dozen, but with modernization of the fishing industry and depleting stocks, they could be the last of their kind.


Other fish listeners have passed away, given up, or changed fishing methods as fish stocks drop and boat noise drowns out fish sounds. Mr. Muhammad will teach his son, he says, but he still believes his son will likely be the last.

Though faint and subtle, each fish has a unique sound distinguishable only to the trained ear:

“When you listen, it is like through a looking glass – you can see mackerel, sardine… After a while, it is as if you can see. Even though the fish is very far, you can sense it in that direction and you go there. Only when you get close, you can hear the fish clearly,” Mr. Muhammad says.

Once fish have been spotted, the crew, who’ve been hanging back with the motors off, move in, drop nets, and bang on the hulls of their boats to scare the fish into the nets.

Sailors too, say sonifery (fish sound) experts, have long reported hearing the sounds of whales and large fish through boats.

Read more at The Daily Mail — OB

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