Ratnagiri: Nisar Panjare, a fisherman from Mirkarwada village in Ratnagiri, who owns a traditional wooden boat, was talking a walk on the jetty. He was worried as he could not take his boat out for two weeks in January for fishing due to the rough weather and strong winds. Panjare, who generally catches fish worth Rs 50,000 per week, has not earned a penny this week.
Like Panjare, many fishermen in Ratnagiri have not been able to go for fishing, owing to the weather. Even when they go—when the weather permits—they say that they are struggling catch fish. Over 50 mechanised trawlers (40-50 feet in length and 10-20 feet in width) and more than 100 traditional boats (15-20 feet long and 5-7 feet wide) remain anchored at Mirkarwada alone due to rough weather. Fishermen can be seen fixing the huge nets used for catching fish and while others are simply strolling or chatting around, at the beach.
Rafique Vasta, a fisherman who owns a traditional boat—also a member of All India Fishermen Committee—said, “Fishing season begins in August-September as soon as monsoon is over. But last year, monsoon extended till October end and we could not go for fishing. Then, two cyclones hit the Konkan coast one after the other—in October and then in the first week of November. These kept us from going to the sea.”
“So, either storms or rough winds are making it difficult for the fishermen to go to the sea. Even when we take small boats, we catch less than 10% of what we get generally. Traditional boats employ 9-10 people while mechanised trawlers employ over 35-40 people. Thus, over 15,000 people depend on fishing here at Mirkarwada alone. They all are struggling to get sufficient livelihood this season.”
Fishing is a source of livelihood of lakhs of fishermen in Konkan region of Maharashtra that comprises five districts along the Arabian Sea coast—Ratnagiri, Sindhudurga, Raigad, Palghar and Thane.
The total marine fish production of the country in 2018 was recorded at 3.49 million tonne, which is lower by 3.47 lakh tonne (9%) as compared to the previous year, mainly due to the reduced catch in West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Though data for this year’s marine fish production is not out, authorities say that catch has been low across India, including Maharashtra.
A few vendors, sitting on the street perpendicular to the jetty, can be seen selling fish. Fatima Begum, who sells fish caught by her brothers and husband, said, “Generally, over 100-150 vendors sell fish along this road. And hundreds of customers come to buy fish in the evening. But now, you can see only 10-12 vendors and a few buyers.”
Aslam Darve, who also owns a traditional boat, told NewsClick, “Traditional boats require 100 litre of diesel while mechanised trawlers require 500 litre. Traditional boats generally get catch worth Rs 10,000 and income of each mechanised trawler is over Rs 1 lakh per day. But currently, both types of boats are not getting catch. All fishermen come here every day hoping that the weather would be better and they can go for fishing. But they get disappointed.”
Vasta added, “What is worrisome is that whenever weather permits to go to the sea, fishermen are not getting catch. This means that there is not much fish in the sea. Besides, mechanised trawlers have been doing fishing in deep sea and they catch young breed. Fishing using technologies like LED light and advanced nets is banned. But mechanised boats continue to use advanced technologies, causing reduced fish production in the sea. This is rendering traditional fishermen jobless.”
Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), via email communication, told NewsClick that marine fish export from Maharashtra has decreased between 2017-18 and 2018-19. As per MPEDA, Maharashtra exported 1.8 lakh tonnes of fish worth $772 million in 2017-18, but it was decreased to 1.6 lakh tonnes worth $739 million in 2018-19.
Damodar Tandel, president, All India Fishermen Committee, said, “Government introduces welfare schemes for farmers and also comes up with loan waivers. Government needs to pay money to the fishermen as well; otherwise, we will find it difficult to survive.”
Experts point out that studies should be conducted to find out how climate change is affecting the marine life or if it is the effect of excessive fishing—even for the young catch—that has made fish disappear.
Anand Palav, deputy commissioner, Fisheries Department of Maharashtra, did not respond to the multiple calls made by NewsClick.
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