Every day is a day of struggle for people who brave high waves and going deep into the ocean at the crack of dawn to get the best catch. Life of fishermen is indeed a brutal struggle. Life is not nice, for them it’s mean, brutal, and often unapologetic. The conditions of fishermen in Pondicherry are relatively better in comparison to many eastern and western coastal areas but their struggle to keep things up is pretty tough. Well, in a way struggle is everywhere; folks who go to the office in chaotic cities, are also struggling, but the physical and financial plight of fishermen is extraordinary.
I had a good fortune to live adjacent to fishermen villages. Just before the sunrise, men at work travel more than 50 km away from the shore, deep into the Bay of Bengal to find their daily income. Sometimes they catch good deal; many times they return back empty handed or small crabs. Those small colorful boats barely hold three people along with their extensive net. Most of them venture out in two, sharing the burden, cost, profit and loses alike. Sometimes I saw a lone fisherman was coming far from the bay, incoming waves helped him to reach shore faster.
|Fishermen kids playing beach volleyball|
The most extensive process is to sort out the fishing net. Mostly two people involve in the process of removing the catch and sort out. It’s not just fishes but crabs, snails and different other species are caught in the net. The most common types are Red Snapper, Blue Fish, Butter Fish, Cat Fish, Mullet, Smelt, Salmon and more. After removing the catch, they take half an hour more to sort out the tangled net. Once sorted out, they go to Pondicherry market to sell that stuff.
“Beer makes you strong.” One young fisherman proudly said it to me. Later on that guy became my friend and told me some aspects of their life, how Pondicherry people were doing business, how he bought second hand motorcycle and even asked me to go with him to catch fish. He seemed to me a novice one, wearing a Dexter T-shirt offered me taking to their local bar. Their enjoyment is to lead a merry alcohol drinking evening, relaxing and talking about local politics. In the afternoon many of them sit on the beach and play cards. Older men generally spend time with their families and watch television.
This age old traditional occupation is in serious question as many fishermen do not want their children to struggle and live an uncertain life. Many children are going to school, some old ones go to even colleges.
After seeing their life, I wonder if their kids would be happy when they find jobs, going every day to offices mired in a chaotic life. Will they ready to do that sort of struggle? Will they able to smile without pretension as their parents do?
Challenges of Fishermen and occupation
The occupation of fishing in India’s coastal regions is age old. Generation to generation they have perfected the art and pass the occupational skills to their successors. However, the changing environmental condition particularly after 2004 devastating Indian Ocean tsunami has permanently changed the dynamics.
Still maximum fishermen rely on the traditional way of knowledge. Things have changed considerably, most of the time they can’t find enough to sustain their livelihood. The changing environmental condition makes it difficult to do the job properly. All in all their traditional knowledge is obsolete.
Many fishermen, particularly who are unaware of technology have difficulty in judging the climate and safety. In addition, it is common scenario when they find it difficult to locate the best places to fish.
In the past it happened that fishermen accidentally crossed the line of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lank and faced the penalties under Sri Lankan law. It happens because the International Border Line (IBL) between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka is not marked.
• Many technology companies and NGOs provide knowledge and information on ocean conditions such as wind speed, wind direction and wave height. This information is very useful to determine fishermen to venture into ocean when it is safe.
• The government also works proactively to alert the fishermen when they are approaching international ocean boundary.
• Also fishermen should be educated on the current market prices, how to negotiate them well and get the best prices for their catch.