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Big vessels leave lives of fishermen in tatters

Mithosh Joseph
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Ships sail too close to the shore, rip through fishing nets

Life in sea is getting tougher for fishermen off the Kozhikode coast, with reckless mercantile ships tearing their fishing nets, and their livelihoods, to shreds. Though the fishermen have been pleading with the authorities for appropriate action for the past one-and-a-half years, nothing effective has come forth so far.

The Fisheries Department and the Coast Guard have paid scant attention to the demonstrations and dharnas frequently staged by organisations representing fishermen.

Fishermen allege that many a time big vessels sail too close, some as close as 12 nautical miles, unmindful of small-scale fishermen and their fishing nets. According to fishermen’s organisations, though the vessels are allowed till 12 nautical miles from the coastline, they used to maintain a distance of 50 to 60 nautical miles earlier.

The sudden change from the usual practice is hampering fishermen, who operate within 20 to 30 nautical miles off the coast.

“The practice, if not addressed, will harm hundreds of fishermen from Kozhikode, most of whom are from poor families with no other vocation,” says K.K. Rajesh, fisherman and president of a local fishermen action committee.

At times, a fisherman who goes in with a 350-kg net has to abandon a major chunk of it in sea, once it is ravaged by a big vessel. A 350-kg fishing net costs around Rs.3 lakh. Many a time, fishermen take out bank loans.

With the new situation, loan repayment is proving to be a problem. There is no insurance coverage for fishing nets.

Appeals in this regard continue to be unheeded.

According to the district fisheries officials, the matter has already been sent for the consideration of the State Fisheries Department.

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