Choppy weather hits fish catch, fishermen demand relief

Bhayandar: After sincerely adhering to the customary 60-day conservation period (annual fishing ban), fishermen had started to venture into the Arabian Sea for the new fishing season since August 1.

However, thanks to the choppy and unpredictable weather conditions that hinder sailing, hopes of netting a good catch during this peak season have been dashed for the fishing community across the Konkan belt.

“Alike farmers, the government should grant a Rs 200-crore relief package as a part of the financial assistance to bail out the affected fishermen.

Since the model code of conduct for elections is in force, the next government should give an immediate nod to the Konkan package,” said Leo Collaso, who heads the Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Samithi.

Stretching across districts that include Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, the vast coastline is the home for over 38,000 fishing boats and is the source for a booming fishing business, which caters to major fish markets in the state.

While most of the fishermen had to prematurely abort their operations mid-way and beat a hasty retreat to shores empty handed, few who braved the weather could not cast their nets as the boats remained unstable due to choppy waters.

Already reeling under an acute financial crisis due to the low catch, the fisher folk have suffered losses as a major part of essential commodities, diesel and other supplies they took for multiple voyages got wasted and that too amid the peak fishing season.

As per the size and capacity of the boat, around eight to 18 crew members, including the khalasi (helpers) and tandel (captain), set out on a fishing voyage of a boat, which lasts for a week to 10 days, with expenses averaging around Rs 1 lakh.

In a ripple effect, prices of fish in the local markets have skyrocketed. In 2012, the state government had granted a relief package amounting to Rs 72 crore to the fishermen.

By Suresh Golani