Shortage of fish in coastal waters hits traditional fishworkers

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Alappuzha: The coastal areas of Alappuzha district that have been hit by the Tsunami of 2004 and later by the Cyclone Ockhi are facing a severe shortage of fish in this season.

Sardine, which was one of the most available species, has almost disappeared now. Other varieties of common fish found in the coastal areas like Karikkadi shrimp, chooda (anchovy), nandan (false white sardines), nangu (sole fish) and kuruchi (pony fish) have also become rare. This shortage of coastal fishes has affected the traditional fishworkers more, as they mostly depend upon the fish found nearer to the coast.

As the availability of the fish in the coastal areas has come down drastically, the vessels used by local fishworkers like Ponthu vallams (thermocol canoes), the dinghies and the mini boats are all sitting ashore. Sometimes, they get a haul of mackerel from the coastal seas. The mackerel boats that can carry up to seven workers or the Disco boats that can carry up to 17–25 workers that go to the sea expecting catches of mackerels or other deep sea fishes are costly. Even if they get a marginal catch of fish, the high expense of fuel costs makes it unviable.

The fishworkers along the coastal areas from Punnapra till Chellanam in Ernakulam district depend heavily upon the disco vallams, or chooda vallams, which are medium sized canoes using ring seine nets. There are many inboard fishing boats (which have engines inboard) that can carry up to 45 workers from Thrikkunnappuzha to Punnapra in Alappuzha district as harbour facility is available. Even these boats are not getting better catches these days. Following the shortage, the fish workers have implemented a system of taking turns locally.

But, even this step has not helped to improve the situation. The fishworkers point out that there is a considerable shortage of fish in the sea. Going to the deep sea is also not possible as the Meteorological Department has been issuing warnings not to venture into the sea. The fishworkers say that these warnings have been started coming during the past four or five years.

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