“We cast our burden on God and are ready to fish,” said James, a fisherman from Pamban as he and his fellow fishermen set out to the sea in 765 mechanised boats on Saturday morning.

With the 45-day ban period drawing to a close on Wednesday night, the fishermen could go out for fishing only on Saturday as it was the first available fishing day for them. As per the existing system, the Rameswaram fishermen go for fishing only on three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

After loading the nets and other paraphernalia, the fishermen hadlined up their refurbished trawlers on Thursday itself, gearing up for a fresh fishing season with renewed hopes, but deeply worried about the stance taken by the Sri Lankan navy.

On Saturday, the day began at 3 am for the fishermen and fisheries department officials. The otherwise sleepy fishing jetty witnessed a flurry of activities with officials visiting the office for distribution of fishing permits even as fishermen were busy loading ice bars into the boats.

Officials, led by Assistant Director, Fisheries (Rameswaram), I. Philomin Thiagarajan began the distribution of daily fishing permits at 6 a.m. and within two hours, the fishermen sailed in the sea in 765 trawlers with prayers on their lips.

The fishermen offered prayers at the Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple and St.Antony’s Church on the shores of the island before setting out to sea. Official sources said all but seven of the 772 trawlers in the jetty were issued fishing permits on the opening day.

Permission was denied to five boats, which were fitted with high speed China-made engines with more than 150 HP, violating the provisions of Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1983. Two other boats developed technical snag and could not go, the sources added.

This year, not even a single trawler ventured into the sea without obtaining the fishing permit, thanks to the Collector’s warning that diesel subsidy given to the fishermen would be cancelled, the sources said.

“The fishermen used to violate the rules and go for fishing, soon after the ban period ended without obtaining fishing permits, but this year, all of them fell in line,” a department official said. The fishing permit had details about the registration number of the boat, boat owner’s name and names and identity card numbers of the crew members.

Following the introduction of online registration system, the boats carried the new registration numbers issued by the department, the sources said. More than 3,800 fishermen ventured into the sea.

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