Personnel of the Fisheries Department and the Marine Enforcement wing here have launched efforts to sensitise fishermen in the district to the dangers they face at sea from armed guards deployed on board ships as a safeguard against pirates in the wake of the killing of two fishermen from Neendakara by gunshots fired by armed personnel in the Italian oil tanker, Enrica Lexie.

The death of the fishermen from Alappuzha from gun fire from the Italian vessel on February 15 has raised concern among the fishermen community in the coastal fishing areas here, including Azhikkal, Ayikkara and Thalassery, as scores of mechanised fishing boats from these areas are at sea and some of them venture into deep sea fishing.

In the past, there were incidents of fishing craft from here being hit by merchant ships transiting through the sea. Two years ago, a fisherman died in an accident in the deep waters off Thalassery coast when the fishing boat was hit by a ship.

According to Marine Enforcement officials here, efforts are now being taken to make the local fishermen aware of the dangers involved in letting their fishing boats close to ships as many merchant vessels are having armed guards on board to counter threat from pirates.

Marine Enforcement and Vigilance Inspector P.K. Venugopal said that steps were under way to distribute handbills among fishermen in the district to alert them to the risk of cruising their fishing vessels close to the ships at sea.

He said that fisheries officials would also use public announcement systems to urge the fishermen to be wary of the new threat.

Mr. Venugopal said the fishermen were being urged not to increase speed of their fishing vessels when they find themselves closer to a passing merchant vessel.

The handbills also ask fishermen to either reduce the speed of their vessels or stop their craft if they find themselves close to the ships, he said adding that fishermen were also advised to display registration numbers, names, and addresses in bold letters to avert suspicion of armed guards watching from the ships.

The Fisheries Department and the Marine Enforcement personnel routinely carried out awareness programmes among fishermen with the objective of roping in their cooperation to ensure their own safety at sea and seek their vigil against suspicious activities in the waters.

But language was a major barrier as a large number of fishermen working in fishing boats in the district and neighbouring areas were from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, fisheries officials here said.