Fishermen in the region find it tough to make both ends meet
Fishermen of the coastal villages including Mukhadar, Nainam Valappu, Kothy, and Chamundi Valappu in the district have a “crisis-like situation” at hand, with their daily fishing outings in the sea fetching depressingly small volume of fish.
Though the catch was bad for the last few months, things have hit the worst in April, and hardly anyone venture into the sea from these coastal villages for fishing these days, say fisher-folk here.
“This is that time of the year when our boats would have been full with mackerel (Aila) and sole fish (Manthal) among other varieties,” says Ahammed Koya, a fisherman for the last 45 years. “But the sea has begun to fail us completely like never before with hardly anyone returning from the sea with a fair catch these days,” says Mr. Koya.
Of the 150-plus fibre boats, which used to go for fishing from these coastal villages, only very few ventures out to the sea these days to try their luck.
These boatmen come from the 300 odd families in these fishing villages.
They do not go to sea nowadays, as each effort in vain adds up to their debts, which has been mounting slowly for the last several months.
For a mechanised fibre-boat with four to five members on board, it takes around 20 litres of fuel (kerosene mixed with engine-oil worth Rs.1,400) for a day’s outing in the sea. “When a boat returns with no fish, the whole fuel and the five men’s labour is wasted,” says T. Riyas, another fisherman from Kothy. According to him, hundreds of fishermen’s families in these regions are on the verge of a livelihood crisis.
N.V. Umer, another fisherman, says it is over two months now since he took to the sea on his boat.
“Our boat returned with little fish for weeks. We were then forced to dock our boat to stop our debt from escalating further,” says Mr. Umer. “We don’t commit suicide like farmers only because there is a perpetual hope, which sea is a metaphor of, that force us to wait for a good time,” he says.
According to Hamsa Koya, a veteran fisherman from Nainam Valappu, a pall of gloom has already fallen across the coastal villages here.
“The sea has stopped being what it used to be for long,” he says, looking far into the blue waters, which fed him for decades.
The huge fast-moving trawling boats fitted with GPS system and fish radars, carrying around 200 fishermen at a time, which in local parlance is called ‘China boat’ are the villains according to a section of fishermen while some others attribute the lean patch to the changing climatic conditions and the Tsunami that lashed out on the coast a few years ago.
The China boats, which are relatively a recent development, trawl several kilometres into the sea spreading lengthy nets with tiny holes in a large area, sparing not even small fingerlings.
These boatmen dump huge volumes of small dead fishes in the sea after they catch them and find them of no sale value. “These fishes, millions of them, would have grown into big ones and would have come to closer to the shore for us to catch from our fibre boats had they spared them,” says Mr. Koya.
“There may be several reasons, but as a phenomenon, it is shockingly unprecedented at this time of the year,” he adds.
According to these hapless men, who do not know anything other than fishing, the government should immediately intervene to alleviate their hardship by giving them free ration and other financial assistances if it wants to ward off a major disaster in the coastal regions.