KOCHI: The National Fish Workers Forum and the Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation organised a protest here on Tuesday as part of the nationwide protest against the Union Government’s move to develop a shipping channel from Gujarat to Kanyakumari along the coastline.
K V Thomas MP inaugurated the protest at Kochi while Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation state president T Peter inaugurated the agitation at Chellanam. Hundreds of fishermen participated in the protest.
According to T Peter, the Centre has decided to develop a 34.5-km wide shipping channel at a distance of 15 nautical miles off the coastline. Around 80 per cent of the fish wealth is located within 50 nautical miles from the coast and the new project will affect the livelihood of around 50 lakh fishermen in the country, he said.
The project is expected to adversely affect the fishermen in Kerala as the state’s coastline has witnessed a series of midsea collisions claiming the lives of many fishermen. On August 8, this year, Oceanic, a fishing boat, capsized in the sea off Kochi coast after colliding with an oil tanker. Only two fishermen of the 14 member crew escaped the tragedy. While five bodies were recovered all efforts to locate the remaining seven fishermen failed. Fishermen said the shipping channel should be shifted 50 nautical miles away from the coastline to avoid mid-sea collisions in future.
There are around 37,000 fishing vessels operating in Kerala, of which around 4,000 are offshore and deep sea fishing vessels. These vessels will have to cross the shipping channel which will lead to an increase in chances of midsea collision endangering the lives of fishermen, said Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi president Charles George.
“The continental shelf, extending from the coastal area to a depth of 50 metre, is the breeding ground of the fishes. Protection of this ecologically sensitive area is important to protect the marine resources and the fishermen’s livelihood. The state government should convene an emergency meeting of the fishermen organisations to discuss the issue and take up the matter with the Union Government,” he said.