Govind D. Belgaumkar
Fishermen using purse-seine boats say the high-speed vessels are posing a threat to their livelihood
Fishing expeditions now last for nine days
Purse-seine users advised to discuss their plight with trawl boat owners
MANGALORE: Fishermen at the fishing harbour appear to be apprehensive about their future.
In the last six months or so, most fishing trawlers have been provided with new high-speed engines, which has not only rendered fishing an easy task but also enabled fishermen to net a larger quantity of fish.
Fishermen told The Hindu that currently there was no need for them to go up to 25 nautical miles in the sea like before to fish nor was there any need to spread their nets up to the bottom of the sea. “Deep sea fishing has been traditionally a bottom fishing. They used to catch prawns and cuttlefish. Now, even mid-water fishing yields sear fish, mackerel, sardines, among others,” a Fishery Department official said on the condition of anonymity.
The sudden change is yielding “good results” for the trawler-bound fishermen. Krishna Bangera, who has been working with a trawler for the last 12 years said that his group, which used to undertake fishing expeditions spanning about 11 to 12 days, was now returning with good catch within nine days. “Our speed is more than the speed of the fish. So they do not escape from the net,” Mr. Bangera said. Also, the boats which now went at a speed of 3.2 nautical miles an hour when the net is spread. With the earlier engines, the trawlers used to touch a maximum speed of 1.9 nautical miles an hour. The new engines enable the fishermen to cover a wider area within a short time, the official said.
Chandrahas Putran, a boat-owner, said he had caught fish worth about Rs. 2.5 lakh during one of his recent fishing ventures. However, he too conceded that this phenomenon would raise doubts about the sustainability of fishing.
Many fishermen said they were aware that they were overfishing and denying the fish any chance to replenish. They, however, hoped that “mother nature” would take care of them. Attributing the overfishing to faster engines, an official said that fishing might come to a halt in about two-three years’ time as stocks were depleting fast.
The annual report of the Kochi-based Central Marine Fishery Research Institute (CMFRI) for 2007-08 said that the Government had permitted about 33 per cent more than the limit prescribed for ensuring sustainable fishing in Mangalore coast.
A CMFRI scientist said that faster engines had only worsened the condition.
Boat-owners point out that they had no alternative but to spend Rs. 12 lakh to change the engine as the crew (fishermen on boats) were unwilling to go on boats with old engines.
The boat owners hope to get back their investment within three or four years with the increase in yield.
A large number fishermen working for purse-seine boats staged a protest at the fishing harbour here on Monday against the alleged encroachment of their operating area by trawl boats.
Naveen Bangera, leader, said the trawl boats were supposed to fish at a depth of 20 fathom or more at the bottom of the sea.
But, aided by the faster engines, these boats were now fishing in the mid-bottom level.
In addition, they were catching fish in the vicinity of the coast, even as they were supposed to undertake only deep-sea fishing, he said.
As a result of this, the trawl boats were catching the very fishes which were hitherto being caught exclusively by purse-seine boats. This, he said, might one day present a situation in which fishermen using purse-seine boats would have no fish to catch, Mr. Bangera said.
Representatives of the purse-seine boat fishermen held a meeting with the Deputy Director of Fisheries Sureshkumar Ullal, who reportedly advised them to hold a meeting with the union of trawl boat fishermen and settle the issue amicably. Mr. Bangera said an appeal had been made to the union of the trawl boat users and hoped that its leaders would come for a joint meeting with them and come to an understanding.
He said fishermen in Malpe had come to an understanding and fishermen of one type of boats did not encroach the waters of the fishermen of other type.
This should be adopted at the Mangalore fishing harbour too, he said.