Over the year, the catch of oil sardine has dwindled, resulting in high prices and lowered consumer demand.

Budget neglected us Keralas sardine fishermen allege as catch on the decline
news Budget Sunday, February 09, 2020 - 18:31

Sardine fishermen who were hoping for a relief package from the Kerala government were disappointed as their demands did not figure in the state budget presented by Finance Minister Thomas Isaac on Friday. In particular, sardine fishermen had sought a ‘fish famine’ package. The catch of oil sardine, a major source of income for fishermen in Kerala, has considerably reduced over the years. As a result, fishermen say that the price of sardines has shot up from Rs 50 per kilogram to Rs 200 recently.

Speaking to TNM, Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi president Charles George said that the sardine decline had badly affected the fishing community since 2012. “We are talking about the traditional fishing community. Sardine was the major source of income for them. Prior to 2012, the yearly availability of sardine was more than 3,50,000 tonnes. In 2016, it came down to 65,000 tonnes and now it is around 75,000 tonnes. Its decline has caused a major set back to the community,” he said.

Charles pointed out that the association has been demanding relief funds for the last three years. “We conducted a parliamentary march in December 2019 and after that we have given a request to the Chief Minister seeking financial help,” he said.

Stating that a majority of the fishermen are in debt following the decline in oil sardine catch, he said, “Most of us bought the fishing boats by taking bank loans. Due to the dwindling catch, we are unable to pay them back”" he added.

Vincent Robert, a fisherman from Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram, said that the decline has also impacted income for the fishermen.

“Earlier, people bought one kilogram of fish for Rs 50. Now, they have to pay double or triple that amount to get the same quantity. Many common people have reduced the quantity of fish they buy. We are badly affected by this. Big boat owners will not be affected all that much but we— small-scale fishermen— are really troubled. Government should consider this as a huge problem,” he said.

Vincent alleged that the budget had entirely neglected the problems of traditional fishermen. “The government is moving ahead with relocating fishermen from the shores. We agree that it is necessary, but they provide just Rs 10 lakhs to relocate. In Ernakulam district, we will not even get 2 cents of land for Rs 10 lakh. Then how do they expect us to get a new home?” he asks.

The ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI)'s third international symposium on marine ecosystem had observed that the decline in oil sardine had caused huge financial loss to small-scale fishermen.

The symposium had also proposed a blanket ban on trawling in territorial waters within 12 nautical miles and also recommended that these areas be reserved as exclusive zones for small-scale fishermen.

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