Fisherfolk in Udupi are coming back empty handed from the sea, face losses

Despite their appeals, the Karnataka government has not yet responded to the fisherfolk’s plight.
Fisherfolk in Udupi are coming back empty handed from the sea, face losses
Fisherfolk in Udupi are coming back empty handed from the sea, face losses

'There are plenty of fish in the sea', goes the popular saying. However, for hundreds of fishermen on Karnataka’s coastline, this is hardly the case. Fishing boats have had to been shored, because fishermen who have been going out to sea have been coming back almost or completely empty handed for a couple of months now, according to Daiji world. This, despite it being fishing season, which begins around November and goes on till April. There is a ban on fishing after that, as the breeding season for the fish begins in summer.

It seems like all the fish have moved away from the coast, said Yathish Baikampady, former President of the Fishermen's Association in coastal Karnataka. "Usually, after a cyclone, fisherfolk hope to see a bumper catch in fish. Expecting this, people took boats on a loan in anticipation to go out to the sea. Around this time, we would have exported tonnes of fish to other countries, making huge profits. However, the fishing community was shocked to see a very small catch of fish this year. Some people came back with one or two fish when they would have come back with boatfuls earlier. The entire industry is now facing serious losses," he said.

The subcontinent saw severe back-to-back cyclones, namely 'Maha' and 'Kyarr' in October 2019.

This fishing crisis on the West coast has had serious repercussions for thousands across the Karnataka, and in other parts of India as well, says DD Ganesh, the Deputy Director of Fisheries, Udupi.  "Karnataka is facing a severe crisis, but the case is the same even in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Kerala," he said.

Some traditional fishers, such as Chetan, a fisherman on the Udupi coastline, said that the lack of fish this year is due to the practice of banned fishing practices, such as 'light fishing' and trawling. Light fishing is when heavy LED lights are used in the sea to attract the fishes and catch them. The practice was banned by the Central government in 2017 due to risks of the method killing small fishes and affecting traditional fisherfolk.

Yathish, however, said that those who indulged in such practices would not have been affected by the lack of fish in the sea, if light fishing was the cause for the dearth of catch. But even light fishing boats have come back empty handed, he said.

Fishermen’s associations have been asking for the government to declare a 'fish famine' due to the dire lack of catch this season, the Hindu reported.

"Usually, when farmers face a crisis, the state government is quick to assure them of waiving off their loans. We are disappointed to see that the Karnataka government is entirely mute on this issue," Yathish said.

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