MANGALURU:They are busy for 10 months. But the two months of fishing ban doesn’t make them look like fish out of water. With nets down, it’s chill time for them. While the boat owners go on foreign trips, boat drivers and crew head back home and have a ‘whale’ of a time with their families.
After the ban of two months in June and July on mechanised fishing activities, the fishing season commenced on August 1 and the usual buzz was back at the fishing harbours. But the activities did not continue as the inclement weather turned the fishing season into a non-starter over two weeks in August.
Boat owners who have invested nearly Rs 5 lakh on the first expedition are worrying while their boats have taken shelter at various fishing harbours due to the turbulent seas.
Life is not easy for the fishing community, either the owner of the craft or the crew members who are mostly migrant fishers from neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, betting on their fortunes in the sea. While the craft are out at sea, the boat owners wait, pinning their hopes on the catch as well as the safe return of the crew and vessels, for huge investments are made on them.
Life begins for a boat owner as early as 4 am on a fishing day. He goes to the harbour to check on the boats that have returned, takes stock of the catch, analyses the break-even of the cost, goes around appealing to the traders who price the hard-earned catch at cut-throat rates, finally winding up the day at 2 pm. "Sitting on this river bank, against the scorching sun, life is not easy for a boat owner", explains Vinod, a boat owner from Mangaluru.
So when the fishing season comes to an end by May 31 night, they moor their boats in the harbour, send off their crew members, schedule a slot for annual maintenance works and finally take a trip to one of their favourite destinations.
During this season, a group of boat owners took a detour and flew to Africa. “We have been to some of the African countries, namely South Africa and Kenya. It was a well -deserving timeout with friends,” exclaims Sandeep, a boat owner and secretary of Trawl Boat Owners Association.
It is the usual custom of boat owners to globe-trot during the fishing ban season, says Dayanand Suvarna, fishermen leader at Malpe. “Boat owners, especially the younger lot, form groups and go on these trips. A refreshing getaway after a toil of ten months,” he says.
The boat owners prefer taking out these trips mostly with their friends, fellow boat owners with similar interest. There are 40 to 50 such groups. “We decide where to go for the year and we tap the local tour operators for these trips,” says Vinod, who has gone to Thailand this time.
Why should only boys have all the fun? “Just to be with friends as boys again. Never mind, we do take our families for tours during the ban season but mostly to some of the attractions inside the country,” chuckles a boat owner, not willing to be named.
These trips cost them anywhere between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 4 lakh per head depending on the destination. “We go because we need a timeout. Not necessarily because we have made big profits. Making money from fishing is not easy, especially when the catch is steadily dwindling along the coast. Some of our friends borrow from banks or from others to join these trips,” says Sandeep.
A lot of investments have to be made on every fishing expedition, starting from fuel, provisions to crew and cost of the fishing gear. “If we don’t get at least what we have invested, say Rs 5 lakh on catch, we are in serious financial trouble,” explains Vinod.
While their owners are globe-trotting, what do the crew, who return to their native places after ten months of toil, do during this two-month vacation? “Time just flies by. We have family functions to attend and our family will be longing for that togetherness. We take them out for events, pilgrimages and to tourist spots nearby,” says Yerraya, a boat driver from Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh working in Mangaluru for the last eight years.
For some others, it may be pressing family commitments. “I went home with lot of anticipation, but unfortunately both my children fell sick. I ended up spending 40 days in hospital out of the 60 days of vacation,” says Jebamalai Ashton, a boat driver from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
The economic cascade of this time-out, perhaps, reflects well when it reaches to the bottom level, after boat owners, boat drivers to ordinary crew members. “I went fishing in my native place since the fishing ban in Eastern Coast ends by June 15. I made some Rs 20,000 which helped my family,” says Jegan, a fisherman from Rameswaram working in Mangaluru.