Depletion of marine fish wealth which is a world wide phenomenon, problems arising out of introduction of new technologies for catching fish in place of traditional methods, stranglehold of money lenders on whom fishermen are forced to depend, displacement of fishing villages because of rapid industrialisation and an RR (relief and rehabilitation) package that is not suitable for fishermen are some of the problems that the fishermen community face in the entire state.
It is in this background and on the occasion of observing the World Fishermen Day (November 21 every year) on Saturday that the National Association of Fishermen is demanding setting up of an autonomous authority for the development of fishermen, especially in the villages along the coastal areas. This organisation could be entrusted with the task of preparing a blue print and prepare plans for improving the quality of life of fishermen.
The Vice-Chairman for Southern States, National Association of Fishermen, S. Prabhakaran said that the annual potential of fish supply in the world had come down from a maximum of 120 million MT to less than 80 million MT.
Speaking to The Hindu here on Friday, he recalled how fishermen used traditional methods of fishing which enabled them to co-exist with marine resources. They used catamarans and eco-friendly nets to catch fish of specific size. Indiscriminate use of new technologies had become a threat to this ex-existence. Introduction of purse seining and bottom trawling are powerful but destructive. Unable to secure financial assistance from banks and Government for their fishing nets, they were forced to depend on the greedy money lenders and private bankers. Now traditional fishermen go to sea for the catch and return empty handed. Displacement due to industrialisation is another problem. Setting up of Gangavaram port had made 3,000 fishermen jobless. They gave jobs only to 600 persons, it was pointed out.
Fishermen in both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh faced problems from mechanised boats and trawlers who violated regulations and catch small fish by using fine nets. Mr. Prabhakaran who was here to participate in the deliberations of Forum for Action Research and Policy Analysis, which proposes to formulate plans for developing fishery mandals along all the coastal districts, said that the best way to develop the lot of fishermen was constitution of an Autonomous Authority.
He said that a meeting to oppose the Bill, proposed to be introduced in this winter session, that would restrict operation of Indian vessels beyond 12 nautical miles but allow foreigners, would be organised at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on November 29.
The other demand would be inclusion of fishermen community in the SC ST category. Fishermen from all parts of the country, including fishermen from land-locked States like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana would attend the meeting.