NAGAPATTINAM: The excitement for the fishing season following the two-month annual ban is on the
wane as mechanised boat fishermen from the coastal delta districts struggled to net a good catch. Having returned to the sea on June 15, the fishers said that they were able to fill only 25% to 50% of the fish-holds' total capacity during each trip since then.
Fishermen and boat owners have expressed disappointment over the annual ban not helping them fetch a handsome catch. Fishermen cite several reasons for the poor returns from the sea, including over-exploitation of marine wealth and motorised boat fishers using the ban period.
C Ravi from Vanagiri, owner of a gillnetter boat, said, "Our financial loss has been increasing by the year. Inflation and increasing price of fuel, ice, other inputs and labour cost have added to the loss. I invested around `3 lakh for the first 10 days of sail this season. The fishermen have returned with a catch amounting to around `2.5 lakh, incurring me a loss of around 16%. I have to pay my workers from my own pocket now."
According to sources, a boat owner spends around `50,000 to `4,00,000 for a single fishing trip. Fuel cost runs to around `50,000 a day, and fuel-loading labour charges might go up to `1,000. Moreover, a boat owner spends around 25% of amount earned to pay the fishermen.
Though there is high demand for good quality seafood abroad, fishermen are upset over their trips not being productive.
RMP Rajendra Nattar, a fisher-representative from Nagapattinam, said, “Twenty years ago, the procurement price of one kg of prawn was around `350. Today, the price remains almost the same. Similarly, price of other fishes with export value in the market have remained the same. So, the fishermen do not get much profit."
Upset over the loss, boat owners have urged the authorities to shift the annual fishing ban period from summer season to monsoon.
K Arutchezhiyan, a trawler owner from Pazhaiyar, said, "Every year, my expedition after the ban period has not been sattisfactory. I invest around `50,000 a day for sail this year. In return, I get only `35,000 worth catch."
However, experts have maintained that summer is the best season for fish to breed. Dr S Velvizhi, coordinator of M S Swaminathan Research Foundation's 'Fish for All' Centre at Poompuhar, said, “There are many species of fishes which breed in summer, and there are some which breed during monsoon. A complete shift in the schedule might affect breeding."