Eighty-year-old Nahoor Kannu has spent much of his life fishing off the shores of Poonthura and Valiyathura. Setting off early in the morning by 5, his group of 20 to 30 men fish using the traditional ‘Kamba vala’ (gill nets).
The large fishing net is laid over a distance of almost a kilometre, with both sides of it weighed down under water with stones and the centre portion opening up to net all the fish in that area.
But over the past one year, the progressively receding coastline from Poonthura to Kochuveli has almost made this traditional way of fishing impossible.
“To work with this big ‘kamba vala’, we need some space by the shore. We need to spread it out to dry it and to get it ready. With the sea coming in by several inches, we have lost much of the beach from Poonthura. Now, it’s just the broken sea wall followed by the row of houses,” says Nahoor Kannu.
Most of these groups have now moved to Shanghumughom and Vettucaud beaches, where the coast has not receded considerably. But, this has given rise to conflicts with fishermen already using ‘Kamba vala’ here.
“At a time, only one or two ‘Kamba valas’ can be used in this area. There has been opposition from fishermen here over us coming here. Now, we have made an arrangement by which we are allowed to fish here on Sundays,” says Aboobacker Zakeer from Beemappally, who came home two years ago after two decades in Saudi Arabia. Though the fishermen here cite the Vizhinjam port project work as one of the reasons for the receding coastline, they all make it clear that they are not against the port project. “We met the Chief Minister and Fisheries Minister to submit a memorandum with our demands. We have asked for inclusion of these fishermen in the Vizhinjam package,” says Tony Oliver, President of the Trivandrum Kambavala Matsyathozhilali Federation.