Come monsoon, and the mechanised trawlers in Goa remain off-water, thanks to a High Court directive which banned fishing by big boats this time of the year.

But hundreds of fishermen, who have canoes - with less than 10 horsepower engines - venture out into the sea in the wee hours every day.

Some 28,000 fishermen, natives of 105-km Goa coastline, look forward to the ban period (June 15 to July 31), because during the rest of the year, trawlers do not leave much catch for them. And during the rains, relatively less fish reach the markets, so prices are high.

High Court imposed the ban on fishing by mechanised trawlers during the monsoon because this is the breeding season for fish.

All the six jetties in the state are closed and guarded by the authorities to ensure that the ban is not breached.

Joaquim Fernandes, 59, who heads the association of traditional fishermen, `Goenchya Ramponkarancho Ekvott’, said traditionally the whole family is involved in fishing. The men go out into the sea, women sell the catch.

Living in the Velsao village, 50 km from the capital city, Fernandes’s has been a traditional fishermen family.

Many fishermen have now bought trawlers of their own, he says.

Still, there are thousands of others who rely on canoes.

In Velsao alone, there are 900 such fishermen.

But though this is a lucrative period, Fernandes said the rough sea this year had restrained the fishing. “We can fish only upto half-a-kilometre from the shore,” he said.

Though migrant labourers are available, the unwritten norm is that men from the local fishermen families have to go fishing themselves. Fernandes said that there are labourers from states such as Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, who are employed as helping hands on the canoes.

The National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) feels that the ban on mechanised trawlers should be extended to August 15.

“The breeding season is disturbed due to mechanised fishing. There is no fish left in the coastal waters,” said Matanhy Saldanha, NFF chairman.

NFF has also demanded that trawling in the territorial waters - upto 12 km from the coast - should be banned. Also, the bottom trawling’ should not be allowed.

Saldanha said foreign vessels, which are issued `Letters of Permit’ (LOP) for fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India, often violate the conditions of permit.

Unbridled fishing near the coast has led to a fish famine like situation, he said. “Almost 60 per cent of fish is found within 40 km,” he said.

“Foreign vessels are supposed to employ local people and sell the fish locally, but they just net the catch and vanish.”

The organisation also complains that coastal states have failed to implement the Marine Regulation Act, a central law, which bans trawling within five km of the shore.

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