Traditional sector wants facility opened during trawl ban

Rival demonstrations taken out by the mechanised and traditional fishing sectors at either end of the Neendakara bridge here on Wednesday portend that a storm is brewing over the Neendakara fishing harbour. The issue of keeping the harbour closed during the annual 47-day monsoon trawl ban period is the bone of contention between the two groups.

The demonstrations were held amidst heavy police presence with the police taking precaution to ensure that the rival demonstrators did not come face-to-face. Interestingly, both the demonstrations were inaugurated by Congress leaders.

While the mechanised sector insisted that the harbour should be kept closed to maintain the 24-year status quo and pressed their demand for it through the demonstration at the Shakthikulangara side of the bridge, the traditional sector was demanding that they should not be denied the harbour facility during the trawl-ban period as it was affecting their livelihood.

They held their demonstration on the Needdakara side of the bridge and also organised a 10-minute National Highway blockade pressing for their demand.

Destructive methods

Under the banner of an action council, the mechanised sector comprising boat owners and their employees marched through the National Highway and arrived in front of the Shakthikulangara village office to stage a dharna. They said the demand to keep the harbour open came from a section of “so called traditional fishermen” who were allegedly employing mechanised and destructive methods of fishing.

They pointed out that such methods defeated the very intentions behind the trawling ban because it was de facto trawling carried out under the guise of traditional fishing. They warned that if the authorities decided to open the harbour for such a sector during the ban period, they would defy the ban and enter the sea in their mechanised vessels to engage in fishing.

Inaugurating the dharna, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee member Baldwin Austin said that the demonstration was intended only for highlighting the fundamental rights of the mechanised sector. He said that in spite of the annual ban being in force during June-July for the past 25 years, no scientific conclusion had been reached whether the ban had achieved its purpose of conserving and augmenting the marine wealth of the Kerala waters.

He said that without such a conclusion it was an injustice to deny the mechanised sector the monsoon-time harvest of the prized karikkadi (marine shrimp) which used to be the main profit earner for mechanised sector. It was during the monsoon period that the karikkadi shoals appeared off the Kollam coast.

‘No’ to extension

The sector was also unable to harvest the prized kilimeen (threadfin bream) which also appeared during the monsoon period. Mr. Austin said that there was no denying the fact that a good section of the traditional sector had become mechanised.

In addition to the harbour issue, the demonstrators also opposed the proposal to impose a 75-day annual trawling ban. The dharna was presided over by action council chairman Charley Joseph. Mechansed sector leaders Peter Mathias and Joseph Joseph also spoke.

Livelihood affected

The demonstration by the traditional sector was inaugurated by District Congress Committee president Pratapavarma Thampan. In his address he said that without traditional fishermen, no fishing activity, including mechanised sector, could progress. It was wrong to deny them a facility to sell their catch.

Addressing the demonstrators Communist Party of India district secretary R. Ramachandran said that the government should take the lead in bringing both sides to the table and arriving at a consensus on the Neendakara harbour issue. He said that the situation should not be allowed to degenerate into a showdown between the two sides.

He also said that all concerned should not forget the fact that it was a part of the traditional sector that had grown into the mechanised sector.

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