VISAKHAPATNAM:Still struggling to recover from the colossal loss caused by the Hudhud cyclone last year, the fishermen of north Coastal Andhra Pradesh are now bracing up for fishing ban period.
With the annual 47-day ban on fishing all set to begin from the midnight of April 14, the fisherfolk is apparently worried about their livelihood. Though the government provides an allowance of `2,000 and 35 kg rice to maintain their families, the fishermen complain that the support is quite inadequate.
The trawling ban comes at a time when the government is contemplating extending the ban period from 47 days to 60 days. Though fishermen who operate mechanised boats are supportive of the move, those dependent on motor boats and country boats are opposing it alleging that the whole exercise is futile.
Around 800 mechanised and modern boats will stay anchored along the coastline till May 31, when the ban ends. The fishing boats in Visakhapatnam harbour handles an average of 1,000 tonnes of fish a day, thereby supporting as many as 15,000 families with a turnover of around `1 crore. Though the harbour will slip into a lull, the period offers ample time for boat owners to take up annual maintenance of their boats.
The entry of mechanised fishing boats into the sea will be restricted during the ban period to facilitate fish breeding. The fisheries department will conduct routine patrolling with the help of coast guard authorities to enforce the ban. However, country boats will be allowed to conduct fishing up to 5 nautical miles from the coast. Meanwhile, the leaders of Mechanised Boat Operators’ Welfare Association have urged the government to extend the ban period to 60 days. Extension of ban period will facilitate growth of fish seedlings and help get better quality of fish, they opined.
Supporting the move to extend the ban period, PC Apparao, president of AP State Mechanised Fishing Boats Operators’ Association said, “If we extend the trawling ban period to the monsoon season, it will help replenish the marine resources. But, nowadays, the arrival of monsoon is often delayed. So, extending the ban period would help get better catch and quality fish.”
To support his argument, Apparao pointed out that the prawns they get during the first week of June are of low quality. “If we can wait and provide time for the seedlings to grow, we will get better quality prawns. For example, the shell of the prawn we get during the first week of June is usually soft. As time progresses, the shell becomes harder and we get better quality prawns, which will fetch better price both in the export market and domestic market,” he added.
A decision to this effect will be taken in a meeting to be held in New Delhi on April 10 wherein representatives of the Mechanised Fishing Boat Operators’ Welfare Associations and fishermen organisations from nine coastal states of India would take part.
Nevertheless, fisheries joint director K Koteswara Rao said that they didn’t receive any official communication with regard to extension of ban period. A decision is, however, expected before the commencement of the ban period.
Meanwhile, the leaders of fishermen, who operate country boats and motor boats, expressed their concern over the move to extend the ban period. The ban will not help replenish the fish resources, as the coastal sea is highly polluted and the resources have been depleted due to environmental pollution, they alleged.
“Vizag coast no longer offers breeding space for fish due to degradation of ecology,” said Teddu Shankar, leader of Fishermen Youth Welfare Association. “The government is offering just 35 kg rice for a family during the ban period, which is paltry. The government aid of `2,000 per family is also insufficient. They should provide at least ` 195 per day.”
Supporting the demand to raise government aid, the members of AP Mechanised Boats Operators’ Welfare Association said that they would request the authorities to provide `4,000 during the ban period.
The state or Central government should provide additional aid for the extended period, for as many as 800 mechanised and modern boats operate from Visakhapatnam harbour and around 35,000 families are directly and indirectly dependant on the fishing industry in the district, they added.