MAYILADUTHURAI: On Saturday, tensions over the use of purse seine nets in Veerampattinam in Puducherry led to a physical clash between fishers at mid-sea. Unfortunately, this was hardly the first such incident. Two weeks ago, fishers from Mayiladuthurai district who had not ventured into the sea for four months over the ban on the nets (also known as surukku valai) were confronted by fishers opposing the use of the nets. A mid-sea clash resulted in a purse seine fisher’s boat ramming a fibreglass boat, splitting it into two, worsening years of tension and ill-will between fishing communities.
But why is the purse seine net so controversial? The net, which costs Rs 10-15 lakh, is designed to form an enclosure around a fish school in the sea and is mostly used to catch sardines, oil sardines and mackerels. The use of the nets was banned in Tamil Nadu in 2000 as it is considered a threat to bio-diversity.
The Madras High Court upheld the ban in 2018. “Purse seine nets indiscriminately trap the breeding fish stock along with migratory fish. Capture of the breeding stock eliminates fish progeny and impacts future resources,” explained P Jawahar, a senior researcher from TN Dr J Jayalalithaa Fisheries University.
Traditional fishers oppose the use of these nets. “People, who fish with this kind of gear, exhaust the catch, depriving traditional and mechanised boat fishers,” said P Rajenthiran, a fisher-representative from Tharangambadi said.
Despite multiple appeals and reminders from the authorities, purse seine fishers are reluctant to adapt to other fishing practices. “Purse seine net will not endanger fish resource. The sardines and mackerels are moving species across the sea regions and multiply in millions. If we do not catch them in time, these fish will perish without benefitting anyone. Dozens of families have invested in each purse seine net. Our survival is on the line,” said V Dakshinamurthy, a fisher-representative from Poompuhar.