Traditional fishermen are up in arms against a Karnataka High Court order allowing purse seine boat operators (a method of fishing in which fishing nets called seine are deployed) to fish in the night using lights beyond 12 nautical miles from the shore. The order from the High Court was passed on January 21 prompting a protest in front of the office of the Deputy Director of Fisheries at the Old Port in Mangaluru on Saturday.
The protesting traditional fishermen have once again called for a ban on fishing using lights. Fishing using lights was initially allowed based on an official memorandum issued by the state government in August 2016. The memorandum was withdrawn in November 2017 after the Centre banned fishing using lights in all coastal areas of the country as it posed a threat to traditional fishermen and caused the death of small fishes. The ban on fishing using lights was restored by the High Court last week based on a petition by Akhila Karnataka Purse Seine Fishermen Sangha.
In fishing using lights, fishes are attracted by holding up a light above water or suspending it below water. Fishes are then caught using nets.
Traditional fishermen say that fishing using lights is being done in large quantities and is now becoming a sustainability issue. "The livelihood of traditional fishermen are affected. The boats with lights run on generators with huge LED lights attached and it leads to a sudden depletion of resources in the sea. This is a sustainability issue," says Yathish Baikampady, a fisherman leader from Mangaluru. He was previously President of the Moguveera Vyavastapaka Mandali, an organisation working for the welfare of fishermen in the coastal districts.
Fishing using lights has also been compared to an older form of fishing at night using torches lit by fire. "In the past, there used to be Bermuda fishing, a traditional name given to fishermen venturing into the sea at night with torches lit by fire," explains Yathish.
However, he also asserts that technology has helped fishermen with LED lights to improve their catch which is affecting the lives of traditional fishermen. "The Bermuda fishing method would get a small catch. But today, huge LED lights are being used to carry out fishing on a much larger scale and that is affecting the lives of fishermen who depend on traditional means," he adds.