The continuing fish drought, proposals that threaten the rights of traditional fishers over the sea and its fish resources, a lack of initiatives for protecting the coast in places such as Chellanam and Fort Kochi, continuous threat of eviction and rising price of kerosene and diesel are giving nightmares to the fishing community, which has slammed the “apathy” displayed by successive governments to their plight.
While the government is sternly denying housing rights to fishers in the coastal areas under the cover of Coastal Regulation Zone, the State has not come forward to tell the people whether it has made a proper survey of the situation. Which is the survey on which the government is denying poor fishers their right to have residences, asks Raju Asrayam, a fisherman.
The traditional fishing community must be given the rights they truly deserve. They should have the first rights over sea resources just as Adivasis and other communities have a right over the forests in the country, says Anthony Kurisinkal in Arthunkal. He says the new government should address the issue seriously and not gloss over it as had happened in the past.
All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators’ Association general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalapurakkal says that the new government should address the issue of how Kerala fishers, who are extremely talented, are being kept away from deep sea fishing under one excuse or the other. The devastating effect of COVID-19 needs to be addressed as the fishing sector directly employs around three-lakh people, he says.
Charles George of Fisheries Coordination Committee says that the new government must first formulate a fish drought package for the community of fishers because they are reeling under an unprecedented fall in fish landings. Besides, the issue of petroleum price hike is so serious that it has turned all fishing expeditions uneconomic.
Mr. Asrayam also expresses anxiety about the proposals under the Blue Economy by the Union government, which will, he feels, turn traditional fishers out of the marine economy. There will be several zones and fishers will be restricted to a particular fishing zone and the proposals will have serious impact. The new State government should surely take these worries into serious consideration, he says.
Jackson Pollayil, State president, Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, says that while relief measures are needed to ease the lives of fishers, the broader and deeper issue of environmental protection should be taken up for action by the new government.
Residents in the coastal areas in the district, stretching from South Chellanam through Fort Kochi and Vypeen say that coastal protection measures have been lagging. A resident of Chellanam, T.A. Dalphin, says that successive governments ignored coastal people. The issue must be addressed now, he says.