MUNAMBAM: It was noon and the fishermen had just returned from the sea. Taking out a five-foot-long shark weighing about 50 kg, they started yelling - ‘eruupathonnayiram’, ‘muppathinayiram’...and the final bid closed at `36,500. Soon the auction was up for stingrays. Munambam fishing harbour was abuzz with activities.
But it’s not every day that they get such a good catch, especially when the trawling ban is on.
Joy and Boban, the fishermen who returned with the pricey catch, admitted that they were not lucky always. “This was one among the few good days. The big stingray can fetch around `1,500 and the smaller one with more glaze, `2,500 to `3,500,” he said.
It’s not so always. Ask them why such a meagre catch and pat comes the reply. “The unscientific and illegal methods employed by big boats are killing the fish wealth which eats into our livelihood.
Moreover, the pelagic type of fishing is detrimental to marine resources. Hence a drastic drop in the catch, said traditional fishermen. Peter, a fisherman, said the pelagic fishing net was banned as per the Kerala Marine Fishing Regulation Act - 1980. “I was one among the fishermen who protested against its use,” said Peter who has stopped going to the sea.
“We used to go at the crack of dawn and return by 6 pm. But now the fishermen set out in huge boats and stay in the deep sea for seven to 15 days and net infants and cull out fish eggs from it source, thereby leading to the depletion of fish wealth,” he said. In pelagic type of fishing, two boats are joined together and wide nets are cast in such a way that no fish and egg spread across vast areas escape.
About 50 per cent of the 400-odd boats operating from Munambam opt for the pelagic method, said K K Velayudhan, state vice-president, Munambam Boat Owners Association.
“They take along 10 to 20 nets which are not easy to identify. The rule mandates that the mesh size of the nets should not be more than 35 mm, but it is not so,” he said.
Precipitating more trouble are the exporters, said Velayudhan.
“Now the situation is such that even a good catch cannot salvage the traditional fishermen. When exporters get wind of a good catch they pull the prices down even before the boats anchor.
Besides, traditional fishermen are yet to get their benefits of trawling ban,” Velayudhan said. The fishermen also do not have drinking water facilities when they are in deep sea.