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Improving the lot of fisherfolk

Improving the lot of fisherfolk
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Improving the lot of fisherfolk

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With monsoon setting in, the 61-day ban on fishing activities has come to an end and the fishermen are ready to go into the sea.

With monsoon setting in, the 61-day ban on fishing activities has come to an end and the fishermen are ready to go into the sea. Normally they wait for this day with high hopes of a great catch.

But this year, their spirits seem to have been dampened by the surge in fuel price, ice and essential supplies which has poured cold water on the plans of fishermen as most of them defer fishing until the situation improves.

In all there are over 2,000 mechanised boats in Andhra Pradesh and of them about 700 boats operate from Visakhapatnam fishing harbour, about 600 from Kakinada and others operate from Machilipatnam, Nizampatnam, Krishnapatnam and Vodarevu fishing harbours.

Normally, each mechanised boat catches 400-500 kg of shrimp and two to three tonnes of fish in a 15-day voyage. But since the last two fishing seasons, there has been a decline in the shrimp catch. Fishermen claim that the catch had come down by more than 50 percent and this had led to severe losses to the boat operators.

The operational cost of boats has also shot up from Rs four lakhs to about Rs 10 lakhs per trip. This has forced the operators to cut down on the number of boats to be operated this season.

Normally depending on the count of the shrimp, the fishermen get about Rs 350 per kg on an average. But for the past two years it has been observed that the catch has come down while the operational expenses have been increasing. Another major problem is that of marketing.

The fishermen feel that the government should focus attention on measures to reduce their operational costs and improve marketing possibilities.

They rue that all successive governments focus more on giving some cash doles under fancy names and fail to focus attention on long term measures that need to improve their prospects. Another major problem is lack of retail outlets. Chennai and Bengaluru have large number of outlets.

Andhra Pradesh should study the marketing and other systems that are in place in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and other states and ensure that the fishing once again becomes a promising profession.

Its time, the governments stop looking at fishermen as vote banks and dole out some sops and come up with viable strategies to improve their fishing techniques and create better marketing opportunities. If that is done even without sops, fishermen can be a potential vote bank for any ruling party.

Its time, a change takes place in the mindset of the political executive and the bureaucracy too advises the government appropriately on those lines.

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