Inflation tides turn fishing a costly affair

Fishers feeling the pinch under spiralling fuel prices as traditional vessels require over 100 litres of kerosene

Updated - May 16, 2022 08:14 pm IST

Published - May 16, 2022 05:53 pm IST - KOLLAM

For fishers, going deeper means extra kerosene that has become costlier than petrol.

For fishers, going deeper means extra kerosene that has become costlier than petrol.

Jomon last ventured into the sea on April 19, only to return with a meagre catch. His traditional craft requires over 100 litres of kerosene for a single trip and the sharp rise in fuel prices has forced him to keep it beached.

“We decided to stay off waters when the kerosene price hit ₹124. With the dip in catch, it is a double whammy for the traditional sector,” he says. Though they are supposed to work closer to shore, the lean stock in territorial waters often drive the fishers beyond 12 nautical miles. “Going deeper means extra kerosene that has become costlier than petrol. Of late, we have been facing a drought-like situation and a steep decline in catch. Nowadays, our daily operating coast outweighs the returns by a considerable margin and if the situation doesn’t change, we will have to look for new livelihood options. We have been fishers for generations and we have never felt so desperate,” he says.

Sugunan, an inland fisher from Thekkum Bhagam, says he has been facing an unprecedented crisis. “We operate on country crafts and sell the catch in the village market. After the pandemic, many regular customers have stopped buying fish. This is an area with lower income families and they all are struggling. Many residents lost their jobs during the last two years and their spending pattern has changed,” he says.

Most inland fishers are feeling the pinch, as they have no wide marketing network to sell the catch. Adding to their woes, many customers now prefer farmed fish available at lower rates. “We have been building a house for the last four years. The prices of construction material are spiralling and I am forced to sell the catch at a loss. Forget completing the house, I am finding it hard to make ends meet,” he adds.

Even when fish vending was turning out to be low-paying exercise, Leelamma had not lost hope. Even during the pandemic, she was hopeful and thought the situation would change after the period is over. However, Leelamma now says fish vending and processing are no more viable options to survive. She now works as a maid.

“After a day’s hard work, we make only around ₹300 and the prices of all essential commodities have gone up. Currently, we can’t afford a cylinder of cooking gas and the schools will reopen shortly. We may not be starving, but with bank loans to repay, it is a tightrope walk for us,” she says.

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