Deep sea fishing is one of the viable alternatives proposed by the fisheries department to divert those involved in trawling the over-exploited sea bed. “There is definite prosperity in the business as the fish caught have a high value in the export market. Moreover, it doesn’t use destructive gear too,” says a top official of TN’s fisheries department.
Tuna, marlin and sharks are the high-prized catches out in the deep sea that require fishermen to stay away from the coast for a minimum of 15 and maximum of 30 days beyond 12 nautical miles from the shore. Each voyage can yield a catch of at least `2 lakh, according to officials. However, fishermen leaders told Express that the scheme required solid back-up from institutional creditors, in addition to the 50 per cent subsidy announced by the TN government.
“The vessel alone costs `60 lakh. Even after 50 per cent subsidy, raising `30 lakh is a huge ask for any humble fisherman surviving on trawling. If bank loans could be availed for this sum, then it would surely be viable,” says Bharati, a fishermen leader based in Chennai. Bharati reckons that the Central government should chip in with a major portion of the funds.
“Even Union Minister of State Pon Radhakrishnan recently said that the Centre is not short of funds. They can surely support us in creating an alternative to trawling,” he suggests.
There are also geographical constraints for certain districts. Fishermen in Ramanathapuram district cannot fish in the deep seas without crossing the international maritime boundary line (IMBL). A fishing harbour at Mookaiyur is in the offing, but it would not be feasible for all the fishermen to relocate the harbour, says N J Bose, a Rameswaram-based fishermen leader.
Despite the difficulties, it is the necessity of the current situation which demands that environmentally harmful methods like bottom trawling are abandoned, says S P Rayappan, leader of the non-mechanised boatmen association of Rameswaram. “We can only hope for proper government support in funding us,” he sighs.
Elsewhere, fisheries department sources indicate that around 600 Kanyakumari and Nagapattinam fishermen have already converted from trawling to deep sea fishing. Toothoor village in Kanyakumari district is well-known among the community for the deep-sea fishing, says a fisheries official.