With the 61-day annual ban on deep sea fishing along the East Coast of Tamil Nadu beginning on Monday, several fishermen opine that their long-pending demand to change the ban period to the months between September and November has been ignored by the government.
According to fishermen, fishing activity can take place without any disturbance from April to June during the hot weather. But during rainy season, it is often disrupted due to the onset of Northeast monsoon, which happens in October and successive months. Despite spending a huge amount to fill diesel for the boats and venturing into the sea, fishermen would often be asked to return to the shore citing inclement weather during the NE monsoon season.
After Ockhi cyclone, the Fisheries Department officials have been asking the fishermen not to enter the sea even when the wind speed is 40 km per hour. So, the ban on fishing using mechanised boats can be shifted to the Northeast monsoon season to ensure fishermen are not unemployed twice a year.
When contacted, the Fisheries Department officials endorsed the idea to change the ban period, which was introduced in 2000 as per recommendations of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute under the Indian Fisheries Act. But, when issue was taken up with Central government officials, they refused to accept the change, citing there was no similar demand from other States.
Among 256 marine fish species that have commercially potential and more than 1,000 non-commercial species that were recorded in Tamil Nadu, only 20 per cent would normally breed during the April-June period. As productivity of export value fish species like tuna and squid, which are migratory, would be high during the ban period, its resources could also not be utilised. This apart, strong waves caused by water current in the NE monsoon tend to increase damages to the boats, fishermen told DT Next.
Meanwhile, Dharmapichai, a fisherman of Thoothukudi, appealed to the government to ensure that families of all active fishermen to get financial assistance of Rs 5,000 on time. Sources from Fisheries Department in Thoothukudi said around 20,000 families from 23 coastal villages would benefit due to the scheme.
In Ramanathapuram district, which has coastline of 237 km covering 180 villages, around 35,000 families would benefit from this scheme. E Kathavarayan, Regional Deputy Director of Fisheries, Ramanathapuram, said that around 4,000 families in Tirunelveli district with seven coastal villages would avail the benefit.
Fishermen using mechanised boats have been instructed not to venture into the sea to avoid disturbance caused by trawlers to marine life during the breeding season. Fisheries Department would also stop issuance of mandatory tokens during the period. However, this restriction would not be binding on country boats, which would continue fishing as usual, sources said.