Kerala still searching for system to alert deep sea fishers

As the cyclone is expected to move northwestwards, there is no threat of an Ockhi-like devastation on the Kerala coast.

Published: 14th March 2018 05:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th March 2018 05:43 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

KOCHI: With the depression over southeast Arabian Sea intensifying into a deep depression around 300 km off Thiruvananthapuram coast, fishermen along the Kerala coast are waiting with bated breath to understand the intensity of the cyclone and its path. For there is no mechanism as such to track and alert fishermen involved in deep sea fishing. As the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had issued an alert cautioning fishermen against venturing into the sea on Sunday itself, traditional fishermen and small boats involved in coastal fishing have not set out for fishing over the past three days. However, around 400 boats involved in deep sea fishing had ventured into the sea much before the authorities issued an alert. These boats take up long fishing expeditions lasting up to three weeks.

"The Coast Guard, Navy and the Joint Operations Centre in Kochi should initiate steps to warn the fishermen involved in deep sea fishing about the course of the cyclone," said Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi president Charles George."I have urged the state Fisheries Minister and the Union Government to initiate steps to alert the fishermen at sea. There is no mechanism to contact fishermen in boats remaining at sea for long."

As the cyclone is expected to move northwestwards, there is no threat of an Ockhi-like devastation on the Kerala coast. However, the sea will be rough in the coastal area and the fishermen will not be able to venture into the sea for the next three days. Some of the boats have anchored at Thengapattanam in Kanyakumari district and at Lakshadweep. The other boats are continuing fishing operations off the Lakshadweep coast, said Charles George.As the depression is expected to intensify and grow into a cyclone within 24 hours, the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators' Association (AKFBOA) too demanded the IMD should alert  fishermen about its path.

"The fishermen involved in deep sea fishing will be able escape the wrath of the cyclone if they get prior information about the path of the cyclone," AKFBOA general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal."While the sea will be very rough in the coastal area due to the impact of the cyclone, the impact will be much less in deep sea. If the fishermen get prior information about the path of the cyclone, they will be able to move to safer areas."

Lack of mechanism a grave concern
"We have information that around 250 boats are continuing fishing operations in deep sea," said Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) principal scientist K Sunil Mohamed."Though there were discussions of launching a system to track the fishing boats and to alert them in case of emergency, there is no system in place currently to contact the boats at sea. After the Ockhi disaster, we had recommended implementing a system to monitor the movement of fishing boats and alert them from the shore. But we didn't get the time to implement the proposal." With the deep depression expected to move in the direction of Minicoy Islands, there won't be much of an impact in Kerala's coastal areas, he said.

Cyclone alert brings alive memories of Ockhi disaster
The cyclone alert sounded by the IMD has brought alive memories of Cyclone Ockhi that devastated the coastal areas of Chellanam and Vypeen in Ernakulam district. The cyclone that swept past the Kerala coast on November 30 had wreaked havoc leaving two persons dead and 40 others injured. According to the figures released by the district administration, the district suffered a total loss of `30.155 crore due to the sea surge triggered by the cyclone.As many as 10 houses and six hutments were completely destroyed while 464 houses were partially damaged. 

The fisheries sector suffered a loss of Rs 3.68 crore. As many as 132 fishing boats were damaged. Fishing gear, including nets, worth Rs 27 lakh were destroyed.  A 10 km stretch of road was also damaged.
 Sea water entered 25 wells in the coastal area. The district administration had drawn a plan to construct a seawall and lay geotextile tubes from Munambam to Chellanam at an expense of `85.94 crore.

Navy to conduct awareness campaign
A Navy team will conduct a Coastal Security Awareness Campaign in the district on Wednesday and Thursday. The campaign will be formally inaugurated at Chellanam fishing harbour at 10 am on Wednesday. It will reach Thoppumpady fishing harbour at 2.30 pm. The campaign will be held at the Njarakkal fish landing centre and the Vypeen fishing harbour at 10 am and 2.30 pm respectively on Thursday.

Representatives from the district administration, Fisheries Department and the Coastal Police will participate in the campaign. Classes will be held on aspects like coastal security, lifesaving and communication equipment, precautions during fishing along the coastline and  actions to be taken on sighting a suspicious vessel.     The navy has conducted seven coastal security campaigns this year. The campaigns are held to bring awareness amongst the coastal populace regarding threats from sea, the way fishermen at sea can assist in thwarting these threats and safety precautions to be taken at sea. Effective integration of more than 18 lakh fishermen operating from over 2.4 lakh fishing vessels has the potential to significantly augment and complement efforts by security agencies, the Navy said in a statement.

‘Police well-equipped’
 T’Puram :
State Police Chief Loknath Behera said on Tuesday that the state police were equipped to face the depression warning by the Indian Meteorological Department. In a statement, the DGP said the state police had completed the preparations by deploying more coastal police personnel. 

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