NAGAPATTINAM: The 61-day annual fishing ban for States along the east coast, which comes into effect on Friday, winds up a year of conflicts for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry fishermen. In the recent months, several dozens of boats from districts such as Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam, Mayiladuthurai, Pudukkottai and Karaikal were seized by the Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly crossing the IMBL and fishing in their territorial waters.
Around 200 fishermen were arrested in the past 10 months and dozens are still in Sri Lankan detention. The island nation impounded the boats of those who were later released, and made the vessels its assets.
Sri Lanka began auctioning 105 seized Indian trawlers amid opposition from Tamil Nadu fishermen and the State government. The fishermen who returned home are demanding their boats, as their livelihoods are affected. The alleged attacks and robberies by Sri Lankans on motorised boat fishermen from Tamil Nadu, especially Nagapattinam district, continue. RMP Rajendra Nattar, a fishermen representative from Nagapattinam district, said, “The Union government must engage in talks with Sri Lanka and find a solution to the issue. It should protect our livelihood and retrieve our boats.”
The year also saw fishermen clashing over the use of banned fishing practices like purse seine net fishing and pair trawling. Fishermen who favoured the use of purse seine nets kept off the seas for months. However, on August 14 last year, some of them decided to go into the sea. A boat of fishermen using purse seine net from Thirumullaivasal hit a motorised boat from Vanagiri and injured three.
This led to clash with Poompuhar fishermen. In retaliation, Vanagiri fishermen set fire to four motorised boats at Poompuhar fishing harbour. N Manian, a fishermen representative from Poompuhar, said, “We invested lakhs to buy boats and purse seine fishing nets. Hundreds of us fell into debt due to the ban on purse seine nets.”
The hike in fuel prices came as another blow for fishermen across the State. Diesel price, which stood at Rs 85 on April 15, 2021, is around Rs 101 now. The constant increase in price has led to the fishermen reducing the number of trips per month. “Our expenditure for a fishing trip has increased by 30%,” said K Ravi, a representative from Pazhaiyar.
The fishermen are hoping for a better season when they set out into the sea again on June 15.
(With inputs from Ramanathapuram)