Friday, May 29, 2009

Forced ‘vacation’ puts them in a tight spot

Published Date: 22/05/2009 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, May 21: WHILE the owners of mechanised trawlers and fibre-boat owners use the mandatory 45-day fishing ban period to repair their boats and nets, fishermen who are employed by them are the worst affected as they do not have any fixed source of income during that period.

Bustling activities off shore comes to a standstill during the period at the Chennai Fishing Harbour at Kasimedu (in North Chennai) as more than 800 mechanized fishing trawlers and 1,200 small fibre boats get anchored to honour the state-enforced ban on fishing to protect the fish eggs.

During the period, activities increase on shore as trawler owners engage different people to set their boats in order for the next voyage once the ban gets over. Since catamarans are exempted from the ban, traditional fishermen move freely along the coastline during the period to catch small fish varieties.

In the harbour alone, more than 8,000 fishermen are directly and indirectly involved in the fishing activities and a majority of them are from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and places down south coastal districts.

Though a few of them, residing in and around Kasimedu and Royapuram areas opt for seasonal works at the construction site and net repair works, most (of them) return to their native place to spend time with family members.

“During the ban period every year, I used to assist my mother, who runs a mobile tiffin shop near Royapuram market,” Mahendran, a fisherman attached to a mechanised trawler told Express. Like Mahendran, a section of young fishermen in the locality (said to be around 1,500) do odd jobs in the city to make both ends meet, and many elders stay at home.

Besides, fishermen who were employed in trawlers also opt for rod-fishing using catamarans during the period as the little boats are exempted from the ban. While many fishermen try to eke out a living with the paltry income from these short-term jobs, a few tide over these using advance money borrowed from boat owners.

“Most of the fishermen are illiterate, they fail to get any good jobs during the period, and that is why we started educating them about the importance of saving money,” said K Bharathi, South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association.

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