With increasing fuel prices, encroaching development and over-fishing, many small-scale fishing communities round India are finding they can no longer afford to operate their boats. At a recent rally, a union was formed to protect the interests of such communities and to lobby the government to assist them.
Sixty-year-old Kersari Narayan Chavanker joined the union to express his solidarity with fellow fishermen and to try and turn around the rising fuel prices and diminishing fish stocks that are combing to create major problems in his seaside town of Alibaug, on India’s west coast.
Born into this village of around 200 fishing families, Chavanker says he was always destined to be a fisherman. ‘Like my ancestors, my sons and I have carried on the family tradition of joining the fishing profession. Life became miserable for us when the big companies introduced their mechanized fishing trawlers.’
Despite laws against fishing during the monsoon period–which happens to be the fish breeding season–the big trawlers often continue to work. In addition, Chavanker highlighted that deep-sea fishing trawlers are encroaching upon shallower waters, that waste from nearby factories is being let in to the sea and that seabed drenching is reducing fish stocks.
Further north, concern about the impact of the massive expansion of Mundra Port, in India’s Gulf of Kutch, has brought together around 300 nearby fishing villages in a fight to preserve their traditional livelihoods.
Jannatbai, a leading member of one of these communities, said, ‘We can see the towers of the new port in the distance. We can also see our day’s catch getting smaller and smaller. We are being slowly pushed further from the sea. But the sea belongs to everyone’.
Among several requests, the union of fishermen is asking the government to provide a relief package similar to that given to farmers, to subsidize their fuel and create an efficient marketing network of cooperatives for the fishing community.