Having incurred losses continuously post-Cyclone Hudhud in October, 2014, a section of fishermen will take part in new fishing season from early hours of June 15 with a ray of hope for a bountiful catch.
Faced with an adverse situation for fishing in the wake of increase in ocean pollution caused by indiscriminate use of plastic material and discharge of industrial and domestic effluents into the sea leading to dwindling number of fish numbers, fishermen are hesitant to go into the sea from Day One of new season.
The reason: Their failure to get institutional loans. Most of the mechanised boat operators have borrowed loans from private moneylenders or friends and relatives by paying hefty interest. They need about ₹2 lakh to ₹4 lakh for taking up repairs of mechanised boats, sometimes necessitating complete overhauling like changing the gears, painting, wood and engine work and replacing the nets during the 61-day annual ban-cum-conservation period.
The annual ban was enforced by the State government as per Section 4 (2) of AP Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1995 to allow breeding and protect the biodiversity. This is applicable only to the motorised boats giving big returns to the traditional fishermen who go for fishing in their catamaran boats during the ban.
Post-Cyclone Fani, the fishermen from North Andhra found a big surprise by spotting highly migratory tuna in the shore. Now they hope for a near-normal monsoon this time. “The general expectation is good. We are expecting a good number of mechanised boats to resume their operations from early hours of June 15,” Joint Director of Fisheries P. Koteswara Rao told The Hindu.
Shortage of ice
After maintaining lull, the ice factories are facing sudden rise in demand. A mechanised boat needs to carry 10 to 15 tonne of ice for a voyage of 10 to 15 days. The price of ice has also gone up by ₹100 per tonne.
Ice is an important raw material for the boats to keep the catch afresh till they return to the fishing harbour. Most fishermen go towards Gopalpur and Puri of Odisha from here for their catch.
Nearly 700 mechanised boats are operated from Visakhapatnam, the largest fishing harbour in the State. Due to failure to source funds for undertaking repairs, 50 to 60% of boats will not go for fishing in the first few days. “The cost of operations has gone up abnormally due to increase in fuel and wages for crew and provisions. We want the new government in the State come to our rescue,” Dolphin Boat Operators’ Welfare Association president Ch. Satyanarayana Murthy said.
AP Mechanised Boat Operators’ Association president P.C. Appa Rao said they were welcoming the new season with a mixed feeling of hope and despair. He said the authorities should take steps to stop ocean pollution, juvenile fishing and bottom trawling.