Erratic weather stumps fishers

Boats at the Thangassery harbour in Kollam idling against the background of an overcast sky.   | Photo Credit: C. Sureshkumar

In older days, Thulapathu (tenth day of the month of Thulam) in the fishing calendar used to indicate a period prosperity, but not any more.

While squally weather has left fishing fleets idling, traditional fishers are worried over erratic patterns that make indigenous knowledge irrelevant. They point out a steady rise in weather warnings and loss of fishing days during the last few years, making 2021 the hardest year to survive.

“In 2019, we stayed off waters for 59 days due to adverse weather conditions and rough sea warnings. In 2020, it was 60 and now we have crossed 70 days in November 2021. The number of fishing units have come down and at present loss of fishing days and low catch have left the coastal community in distress. The relief measures offered by the Government are also not adequate to tide over the crisis,” says Jackson Pollayil, president, Kerala Swatantra Matsyathozhilali Federation.

Though fishers are familiar with weather playing spoilsport, unexpected patterns are increasing the difficulty and risk in carrying out fishing activity.

“Traditional fishers are largely dependent on indigenous wisdom passed down orally from older generations. We know the currents well and are able to identify storms strong enough to capsize boats. We know the winds of different seasons and when rains gain momentum. But, of late, all our calculations have gone wrong,” says Xavier, a fisher from Kollam.

The fishers are equally worried over the dip in catch, especially pelagic species. “During the six-month season we usually see an abundance of pelagic fish such as mackerel, anchovy, and sardine. But this time only mackerel was available on a regular basis. Sardine catch was limited and fishers from some districts totally missed the shoals,” he adds.

Mr. Jackson says though they had approached the Government demanding a package to survive in the famine-like situation, no action had been taken. He adds that getting fair price for the catch has become a task after COVID-19.

“While they are supporting exporters by offering subsidies, we are forced to sell our catch at minimal rates. Demand has increased, but we are receiving no proportionate profit,” he says.

In December, the traditional sector is expected to enter the annual dry spell that will continue till summer. “As temperature rises, the catch will become scarce. With high fuel prices and low catch, we won’t be able to venture into the sea,” he adds.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 11:24:12 AM |

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