KOCHI: A year ago, the fishermen of Kerala were hailed as heroes. Their selfless efforts to save thousands in the flood were appreciated by all. However, the struggles of the community persist. Be it sea erosion or the trawling ban, the alleged lack of support from the government has been cited as a reason for their never-ending tale of hardship.
Now that the 52 days of trawl ban has come to an end and they are ready to venture out to the sea, the steep hike in the annual licence fee of fishing boats adds to their woes. To protest against the move, the fishermen plan to hold a dharna near the Goshree Bridge seeking a fee reduction.
“The government has brought in a 10-fold increase in the annual licence fee. A boat that had to pay Rs 5,000 earlier has to pay Rs 52,000 now. The catch has already dwindled due to fish drought. The hike in licence fees is adding to our woes,” said Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi president Charles George.
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To receive the fuel permit, the fee had to be paid first. Earlier, the fee was decided on the basis of engine capacity while the new rule decides it on the basis of the length of the boat. The huge fine imposed on those operating without a permit also worries the community. “Most of them have not paid the licence fee as the catch has been low. People are in a debt trap, this is not the 'big salute' they deserve for their efforts during the flood. We have decided not to pay the licence fees, stage a blockade at Goshree bridge and stop providing our share towards Matsyafed,” he said.
Owing to the depletion of marine resources, the union had already presented their demands to introduce a fish drought package. However, they have not received any positive response from the Fisheries Department.