KOCHI: The fishermen, who are struggling to survive due to depleting marine resources, have been hit hard by the increase in fuel prices. Several traditional fishermen had stopped venturing into the sea four months ago due to non-availability of fish in the coastal waters.
Though they were hopeful of making up for the loss during the monsoon season, not many boats are getting enough catch. Concerned over the mounting loss, the fishermen unions have decided to launch an agitation.
According to fishermen, the increase in fuel cost will bring an additional burden of Rs 12,500 on tuna longliner and gillnet fishing boats that undertake fortnight-long deep sea fishing expedition. A longliner boat needs 5,000 litres of diesel for a single expedition. The expense of mechanised trawl boats that undertake week-long expedition will increase by Rs 5,000, while the fuel expense of purse seine boats and motorised inboard boats will increase by around Rs 1,000.
“Both the traditional fishermen and mechanised boat workers will be adversely affected. The fish in Kerala’s coastal sea has migrated to other areas and fishermen will have to venture into the deep sea for fishing,” said National Fishworkers Forum general secretary T Peter.
“The reduction in the supply of subsidised kerosene also has affected fishermen. Earlier, each traditional fishing boat used to get 279 litres of kerosene at a subsidised rate, which has been reduced to 60 litres. Even a motorised fishing boat needs 425 litres of kerosene for a single day fishing expedition,” said Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi president Charles George.
Mechanised boat owners said the fuel price hike will spell doom for the fishing industry. “While the Karnataka government provides tax relief to the tune of Rs 6 lakh to boats, we are made to pay exorbitant fines.
We pay Rs 52,000 per annum as licence fee and the Fisheries Department imposes a fine to the tune of Rs 2.5 lakh for simple violations. With hike in power charges, ice manufacturers have decided to hike prices of ice blocks from Rs 70 per block to Rs 80. Most boat owners are in a debt trap,” said All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal.