It has been three days since Stephen and his friends, local fishermen from Vizhinjam, left their family and community behind to go fishing in deep sea. But they did not seem happy returning to the shores on Sunday morning.

“Three days of hard work has fetched us only very little fish. I am happy to see my family but they are not going to be happy with the catch,” Stephen says as he explains his plight while anchoring the boat Ýesu Matha’.

Local fishermen along the Vizhinjam coast are venturing into the deep seas more often because they say they no longer get a good catch. Store boats, as the locals call it, which are engine-fitted country boats usually used once in every two weeks, is now taken out into the sea twice every week.

“This is one of the worst times for us. There are no fishes along the coasts, so we have to take out the store boats every week to get a good catch. Even then, the quantity we get is very low,” says Bensy, a local fisherman at the Harbour.

Not many are happy about the high prices that are being quoted for such small quantity of fish at the auction. The collection, when the last stock from the boat is cleared, remained at Rs.20,000, while normally it exceeds Rs.50,000, the man-in-charge of the auction says.

“We have to buy the fishes and hope that we get a better price with the customers. If we wait for a better deal, we may never get it,” adds a fisherwoman from the locality.

Assistant Director of Fisheries, Vizhinjam, S. Sreekandan says the scanty rainfall and climate change has affected the spawning and regeneration of fishes, especially the sardines and shrimp varieties due to which shortage of fishes has been reported this season.

P. James, who has taken over a two-year contract of one of the store boats, says the livelihood of many families depends on the fish stock that comes from these boats.

“We have to spend at least Rs.10, 000 for fuel and maintenance for these boats while some 800 country boats, used for one-day fishing, are not taken out because there is no business,” he adds.

Business or no business, Stephen knows he will have to set sail again on Monday for another three days. “I do not know what is out there in the deep waters but I am sure ‘mother sea’ will not abandon us,” says the fisherman.