Realising that waiting indefinitely for assistance from Central and State Governments for replacement of trawling nets with gill nets in mechanised boats for the purpose of deep sea fishing does not make sense, fishermen in Nagapattinam district say they have begun mobilising resources by themselves for conversion of their boats.
According to official sources, the Fisheries Department had, in recent months, conducted a few meetings at Mallipattinam to encourage fishermen change over to deep sea fishing, with promise of attractive subsidy-linked loans, in the backdrop of recurring conflicts with Sri Lankan Navy.
According to official figures, there are 1175 boats in the district of which 75 per cent are with trawling nets and the rest with gill nets. Applications were being received from fishermen for conversion of boats, a senior official said.
For purchase of deep sea boats with gill nets costing about Rs. 80 lakh, the buyer is entitled to Rs. 40 lakh of Central subsidy, and Rs. 16 lakh as State subsidy.
Of the rest, the fisherman is required to invest Rs. 8 lakh and the rest would be arranged as loan, according to the scheme. However, fishermen say the scheme is only on paper, and that none has availed the benefit so far.
Rajendra Nattar, president of Indiya Desiya Meenavar Sangam, says there is not even a grain of truth in the claim of the government officials that the scheme is under implementation.
“We are prepared to switch over to deep sea fishing on a larger scale provided there is sufficient financial backing from the Central and State governments,” Mr. Rajendran Nattar said. He said it was the government that had first encouraged the fishermen to use trawler nets. It was unfair to blame the fishermen for the perceived reduction in fish availability.
Due to export of crabs and prawns that could be caught only through use of trawler nets, the government could earn substantial foreign exchange, he said.
Ideally, mechanised boats with trawling nets must be fitted with 300 to 400 horse power engines. It was the government again that encouraged fishermen to use 1000 hp motors for boats due to which the surface of the sea gets scrapped endangering marine diversity, he explained.
Nevertheless, the fishermen, he assured, will play a constructive role for transformation to deep sea fishing if the government is really serious about providing sufficient financial support.