In normal circumstances, E. Altrin, a fisherman from Rameswaram, would have sold the juvenile lobsters, each weighing 50 gm, in the market after the catch. That is no longer the case. Nowadays, whenever he gets the juveniles he shifts them to the floating cage in the sea.

“After four months in the cages, these juveniles grow in size and weigh 200 gm. If I sell the juveniles I will get only Rs.150 a kg. But fully grown lobsters, each weighing around 150 to 200 gm, will bring me Rs.1,000 a kg,” explains Mr. Altrin, one of the eight fishermen who received training in advanced fishing methods in Vietnam.

The tsunami relief committee of the Rotary International District 3230 was instrumental in arranging the training and the whole trip was sponsored by General Electric (GE) and the entire programme was coordinated by M. Sakthivel, Chairman of the Marine Products Export Development Authority.

Beneficial

“The original plan was to send the fishermen to Scotland. But it failed to materialise. We opted for the training programme in Vietnam, which proved beneficial because it is an Asian country,” explained Benjamin Cherian, Chairman of the Relief Committee and past Governor of District 3230.

Mr. Cherian, who visited Vietnam during the training period, said that if Vietnam, which had one third of India's coastal belt, had emerged as a major leader in the world fishing industry, India could replicate the success.

“Even Chennai hotels are getting fish from Vietnam. We have not fully exploited the marine resource. It is not just fishing or fish farming. Our fishermen should also be trained in fish processing. Preservation is very important,” he said.

Keen on providing training in advanced fishing to more fishermen, the Rotary International District 3230 has sent a proposal to the Union Ministry of Agriculture.

“We have suggested that 10 fishermen each from 11 coastal States could be sent for training. The total expenditure for training 121 fishermen, including Indian guides, will cost Rs.3.60 crore,” Mr. Cherian said.

Vietnam provides training in inshore floating cage culture of grouper, seabass, snapper and cobia; offshore cage culture of grouper and cobia; floating cage culture of spiny lobster and packing live lobster for export; collection techniques of early juveniles of spiny lobsters from the sea and culture in the sea; live fish market and export of live fish, squid gigging with light attraction and tuna fishing for export of sashimi grade tuna.

Support needed

After training the State government should support the fishermen with adequate bank loan and subsidy to start the model project proposal by them, Mr. Cherian said.

Mr. Altrin explained that he could succeed in sea farming of lobsters because the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in Mandapam had set up a cage in the sea.

“Setting up a cage will cost Rs.5.5 lakh. It is not possible for me to invest such a huge amount. CMFRI scientists continue to support me with their expertise,” he said.

He is also keen on raising fishes such as Cobia and Koduva. “But I need support from the government,” he added.

Mr. Cherian said the Rotary movement is keen on educating the fisherman in modern fishing techniques. “Knowledge is permanent. By creating it we want to sow the seeds of the blue revolution in the country,” he said.