The steep fall in daily catch due to adverse climatic conditions and high fuel costs are forcing small fishers in Kozhikode district to keep off the sea.
With the returns coming down, many of them have taken a break from their traditional vocation and are hunting for odd jobs.
The current problems are similar to those that the fishers face during the annual trawling ban period, say fishing community leaders. They have urged the government to devise a relief package for the fishers as the situation is likely to continue until May-end. However, the Fisheries Department is reportedly unable to announce any relief measures as the model code of conduct is in place.
“To survive lean periods like this, the fishers are in need of free ration, treatment aid and a one-time allowance. The lack of such planning by the authorities has been creating trouble for fishers for more than three years,” says K. Rajan, vice-president of a State-level fishermen’s association. He points out that the fishing community is badly in need of a summer package in the years to come besides aid during the trawling ban period.
In Kozhikode district, there are about 20,000 fishermen and over 5,000 mechanised fishing boats. Though the Fisheries Department claims that the majority are covered under various government welfare schemes and insurance packages to manage adverse situations, fishermen’s organisations say there are no helpful schemes to address unexpected seasonal challenges.
Fishers from the Vellayil harbour say that the continuing crisis in the sector has forced many migrant labourers, earlier employed by local boat owners, to leave the district. They attribute it to the increasing operational costs and the declining profit as a result of poor catch.
Irfan Habeeb, the leader of a fishermen’s organisation, says there are no initiatives on the part of the Fisheries Department to carry out a scientific study taking into account the new challenges in the field. “Their field surveys and studies are all carried out in a very conventional format with no advanced criteria,” he says.
A district-level fishermen’s coordination committee led by him is planning to take up their demands with the State government.
“We have prepared a memorandum in consultation with various organisations. It will be soon be submitted to the State government,” he adds.