Kerala

Income in ruins, fishers call for famine package

Deep-sea trawlers that returned to the Neendakara harbour dumping their catch of export-quality shrimp after they failed to find any buyers on Tuesday.

Deep-sea trawlers that returned to the Neendakara harbour dumping their catch of export-quality shrimp after they failed to find any buyers on Tuesday.  

Selling the catch is a problem in the wake of restrictions imposed in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak

Representatives of over seven lakh people directly depending on fishing activities in the State have called for a “fish famine package” and more clarity on what should be done at a time when the country is under a lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Financially in dire straits, small-time traditional fishers venture out. But selling the catch is a problem because of the present restrictions. The Fisheries Department has told fishers to abandon the traditional auction system to prevent crowding at auction centres, says Antony Kurisinkal of the Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation.

The fishers have voluntarily given up the auction system already and shut fish landing hubs. Therefore, he suggested that the government frame a system, perhaps introduce a token system, to allow fishers to sell the catch by turn to avoid crowding at sale centres.

“The police and local authorities must help. This is a must considering the importance of fish in everyday diet, especially in coastal areas, as maintained by the government,” he adds.

Fishers’ unions have also expressed anguish over government reluctance to announce what they call a “fish famine package” despite repeated requests.

Oil sardines fishery is at one of its most difficult phases and the fate of about a lakh fishers is tied to oil sardine catch, says Charles George of the Matsya Thozhialali Aikya Vedhi.

Sardine catch

Sardine catch has dropped to around 77,000 tonnes in 2017 from 3.99 lakh tonnes in 2012, he says as he calls for an allowance of ₹5,000 to fishermen families in addition to monthly free rations provided during the famine months.

Survival package

“There are 50 inboard boats, 80 purseiners, and around 3,800 trawl boats operating out of Ernakulam harbours. They have shut down their business and a survival package is a must for thousands who depend on their operations,” he adds.

Meanwhile, fishers have urged the government to allow at least a few of them to travel to take care of engines of boats docked in places away from homes. Hundreds of boats from Alappuzha are harboured at centres such as Chellanam and Thoppumpady. Without constant maintenance the engines will be damaged, says Mr. Antony.

With the State under a lockdown, the police are allowing only essential travel. Fishers are aware of the circumstances but maintenance of the boats is a grave issue, he adds.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:58:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/income-in-ruins-fishers-call-for-famine-package/article31167528.ece

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