Fishermen see red over ban
The Government has mooted an extension of the ban on fishing during monsoons for a further period of 15 days. Generally, the ban was in effect imposed with effect from June 15 till July-end. The Goenchea Ramponkarancho Ekvott (GRE), which represents the traditional fishermen, has supported the ban, while the mechanized sector has demanded that status quo be maintained, arguing that the ban period has been strictly observed by them for the last several years, and yet there’s no significant increase in fish catch.
The volume of fish catch in any given year is dependent on a number of factors. These include undisturbed breeding season, controlled fishing along a known fishing belt and an environment conducive to regeneration of species, besides survival of the offspring to maturity stage.
The policies of the government pursued to increase availability of fish in the market have been utilized by new operators in the field, taking away the unemployed youth from the fishing community, but not involving the traditional fishermen. All across India, coastal fishing communities have been facing the problem of competition with the mechanized sector .They cannot afford to compete on equal terms with the powerful mechanized lobby, and at the same time ensure their survival. It is this real anxiety that pits the Ramponkars against the policy of allowing the mechanized sector to operate after 30 days.
Labourers on trawlers who go away to their native village during the ban period fail to turn up even by October. So, why the undue haste by the trawling lobby? Moreover, the logic in imposing the ban is merely to ensure that the fish spawn completes the cycle of reproduction without any disturbance .The extension of the ban, by itself, will not ensure this. Controlled fishing is a must, if we have to get the expected results. The mechanized sector should show some accommodation towards the feelings of the traditional fishermen, and not ride the high horse.
The argument by the All Goa Fishing Boat Owners' Federation (AGFBOF) that the fishing ban has been strictly observed by them for the last several years, and yet there’s been no significant increase in fish is unacceptable. Has any scientific study been done why this depletion of fish? People have to pay through their nose for something which is freely available in the sea, with fish mafia involved in jacking up rates. We are ready to admit that it is not the trawler owners who are the biggest beneficiaries of fish pricing. Fish traders and the fish vendors rake in the harvest of profits. The dwindling catch ought to necessarily be attributed to the over exploitation of the sea due to insensitivity to sustainable fishing, evident by trawlers congestion Goan waters. There was a time when even the government was represented by the trawling lobby, just as in the case for every money generating avenue -- we had governments represented by the bus lobby, builders lobby, mining lobby and what have you.
Apparently the mechanized sector’s demand to maintain the ban period at 30 days stems from fear of losing an opportunity to harvest the prized solar shrimps which thrive during the ban period, and disappear after a few days. This dilemma ought to be solved by the scientific fraternity, by identifying and targeting the zones of solar shrimps. Implementing the idea however could be challenging and dicey. With the failure of the government to penalize fishermen selling fingerling, even hatchlings, an extension of the ban becomes imperative.