No boat with inboard engines will be allowed entry at Neendakara

Following talks with representatives of the Kollam-based traditional and mechanised fishing sectors held in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday, the State government has decided to open the Neendakara fishing harbour to the traditional sector from Friday.

For the past 24 years the harbour had been kept fully closed during the annual trawl ban period. This year’s trawl ban, which came into force on June 16, will end on July 31. A statement from the district administration said that only genuine traditional fishing craft with outboard engines would be permitted entry into the harbour during the six days from Friday. Fishing vessels fitted with inboard engines would not be permitted to enter the harbour. The issue of opening the harbour for the traditional sector was a demand that began to be raised from this year. It was strongly objected by the mechanised sector. This led to a showdown between the two sectors leading to apprehension over the law-and-order situation at the Neendakara-Shakthikulangara fishing belt of Kollam.

The contention of the mechanised sector is that the demand for opening the harbour during the trawl ban period comes from the “so called” traditional sector which is de facto mechanised and the boats are fitted with inboard engines. These boats are double the size of a mechanised boat and the cost is also two times higher than that of a mechanised boat. They said that the fishing methods followed by such boats were fully mechanised, and they also used destructive methods of fishing. This was one of the reasons why the genuine traditional sector was refusing entry to such boats at the Tangasseri harbour, meant for the traditional sector, during the early morning period, they said.

Livelihood issue

But the other side contends that their livelihood is based at the Neendakara harbour and keeping it closed is badly affecting them. The sector launched strong agitations demanding that the harbour be opened for them during the trawl ban period and if the demand is rejected they will forcefully enter the harbour.

The mechanised sector countered it saying that if inboard engine boats were permitted into the harbour during the trawl ban period, they would defy the ban and go to sea and engage in trawling. This led to an uneasy calm in the area. At a press conference here last week, the traditional sector leaders said that they would forcefully enter the harbour on July 22. The mechanised sector geared up to oppose it by organising a counter rally to the harbour.

In view of the tense situation, District Collector B. Mohanan appealed to both sides to maintain calm and withdraw their agitations since the government planned to settle the issue through talks on July 23, which was later postponed to Wednesday. The talks were held in the chamber of Fisheries Minister K. Babu in the presence of Labour Minister Shibu Baby John, who is also the local MLA, the Collector and Fisheries Deputy Director T.C. Suresh Kumar.

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