The harbours at Shakthikulangara and Neendakara went abuzz after a 52-day hiatus on Monday in preparations to mark the end of the annual trawling ban. Repairs done and equipment back in place, around 3,800 motorised boats across Kerala will venture into the sea on Tuesday midnight after the fishing holiday.

‘Only in Kerala’

But though it’s a time for the fisherfolk to be jubilant, this year they seem less excited and more apprehensive. “This time we are going to sea without many expectations due to many reasons. This year we had a 52-day ban, but while motorised boats stayed off the waters, others carried out large-scale fishing. Apart from crafts that use ring seine nets, there were mini-trawlers and together they have brought to shore tonnes of fish. This time thousands of mini-trawlers kept sweeping the sea floor for days using customised nets. In India, Kerala is the only State where such practices are allowed and this is one reason why we lost the number one position in the industry,” says Peter Mathias, president, All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association.

Monsoon impact

If the monsoon is good, it’s believed that the fishermen will come back with a good catch including the most-sought-after karikkadi shrimp. “We had good rains this time, but we also had a large fleet of non-motorised country boats and fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) boats. With more than 34,000 boats in the sea during the period we are doubtful about how much of the stock is left.” Mr. Mathias adds that this year chances for accidents are also high as the authorities have failed to carry out dredging works on time.

Weather kept the fisherfolk off the sea many days this year. “In the last few months we faced heavy rain and rough sea repeatedly. If it continues people working in small motorised boats will be left jobless. Though everything seems fine today, nothing can be predicted. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” says Rody, fisherman.

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