Kerala

Dip in catch hits livelihood of Kerala fisherwomen

Fisherwomen waiting for boats at the harbour in Sakthikulangara near Kollam. The women engaged in fish vending, many of them above 50 years, have been returning empty-handed due to the dip in fish catch.

Fisherwomen waiting for boats at the harbour in Sakthikulangara near Kollam. The women engaged in fish vending, many of them above 50 years, have been returning empty-handed due to the dip in fish catch.  

Many small-scale vendors return with empty baskets for days

Pauline, a 55-year-old fisherwoman from Kappil, has been returning with an empty basket from the Neendakara harbour for the past four days.

The boat that had been supplying fish to small-scale vendors remains anchored on the shore after multiple futile trips last week. The dip in marine stock, especially pelagic fish, has put the livelihood of thousands of fisherwomen in the State in jeopardy.

The women, many of them above the age of 50, say they are facing an unprecedented crisis.

“Many varieties abundant some 10 years ago have vanished completely and it is for the first time I am witnessing such a famine-like situation. Women working in small processing units are also in dire straits,” she says.

Matsyafed operates special bus services for them to fish-landing centres and of late the majority of them are taking the trip in vain.

“Today there are 33 women from Thiruvananthapuram on the bus, but only a few got lucky with some anchovy. I have been selling fish for the past 30 years. At this age, it is not possible to start another trade,” says Jenet Cleetus, who is also the Thiruvananthapuram district secretary of the Kerala Swatantra Matsyathozhilali Federation.

The main reason for this alarming dip in catch, she adds, is illegal and unscientific methods of fishing, including night trawling.

Primary earners

In many families, these women are the primary earners and returning with no fish has made their lives miserable.

“Though the boats are bringing hardly any catch, cheap formalin-laced fish from other States are available in the market. As a result, good fish has become dear and often we are not able to afford it. We used to get a basket of mackerel for ₹2,000 early, but now the price has gone up to ₹8,000,” says Mable Rymond, president, Theeradesha Mahilavedi.

Though the Theeramythri programme of the Society for Assistance to Fisherwomen (SAF) has been offering the women alternative options for self-employment, it could not reach out to many, mainly the elderly.

“We are aware of the depletion in fish stock and this financial year we have formed groups mainly focussing on women engaged in fish vending. Around 50,000 women work in the sector and currently we have over 5,000 beneficiaries. At present we do not have any large-scale project, but in future we may be able to assist more,” says Sreelu N.S, Executive Director, SAF.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 5:21:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/dip-in-catch-hits-livelihood-of-kerala-fisherwomen/article30916646.ece

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