Kerala

Fuel scarcity, poor catch leave fishers in debts

Nearly one month into the annual trawling ban, many traditional fishers are finding it difficult to stay in their vocation due to poor catch and scarcity of fuel.

While many boats return to the shore nearly empty, a major portion of what they earn goes into buying kerosene from black market at a higher price.

“Usually we wait for the monsoon and trawling ban to begin. But this year our condition is very pathetic. We have returned home on many days with less than ₹100. We can’t find any shoals in the areas we usually fish and we can’t afford the kerosene to go deeper. If this continues, we will stop venturing into the sea, as it only means mounting debts,” says Godwin, a fisherman.

According to fishermen, an average boat requires over 100 litres of kerosene a day and it costs ₹75 to 85 in the black market.

“When outboard engines were introduced, we used to get 600 litres of kerosene and now we get next to nothing. The subsidised fuel we get is quite insufficient to meet our needs and the government has reduced the quantity over the year. In a State like Kerala, kerosene is not commonly used for cooking or any other purpose and we are the only ones who badly need it. While we are denied subsidised fuel citing unavailability, there is no shortage in black market. The black market is operating with the silent support of the government,” says Jackson Pollayil, president, Kerala Swatantra Matsyathozhilali Federation.

The fishers also say that they are going through one of the worst seasons in near history as there is a considerable decline in the catch this monsoon. “We are all aghast, we don’t know what has caused such a steep fall in the fish stock. As we weren’t expecting this, many new units were assembled this year too. But even if we get a decent catch in coming days I doubt whether we would be able to pay off the debts,” says Kannan, a fisherman. Others nod in agreement and add it’s for the first time they are experiencing such a setback and coming back empty handed from the sea during monsoon months is something new for them.

“If 100 boats venture into the sea from a place, hardly five or 10 manage to scrape through with an average catch. The traditional sector is definitely in deep crisis and we have already brought this to the attention of the government,” says Mr. Jackson Pollayil.


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 4:09:12 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/trawling-ban-makes-living-tough-for-fishers/article28262962.ece