The delicacy of seafood would definitely bring a smile on the face of coastal dwellers just like an extra dollop of butter in food does on a Punjabi’s face.
Ever wondered whom should you credit for these fishes in your plates – “The Fisherman”.
A Fisherman in general belongs to a community of people who are engaged in fishing as their primary occupation. Fishing collectively refers to catching aqua creature that is fit for consumption by humans.
From shrimps, prawns to various types of fishes – catla, hilsa, salmon etc. there are a lot of varieties in fishes. Also fishing as an occupation involves sorting and selling them in local and global markets.
Fishing is done both in fresh water sources like lakes, stream and rivers as well as in marine ecosystems like seas and oceans.
Location of a fisherman plays an important role in the type of catch a fisherman would acquire to both run his business and make a livelihood. One must note just like farming even fishing is done in all states of India.
From Dal Lake in Kashmir, to Ganga River and its tributaries to the south Indian coastal regions, fishing is a very big thriving industry in our country and the Ministry of fisheries if responsible to look into the fishing occupation of our country.
It also governs the welfare of the common fisherman and looks into schemes for his development.
The fishing community, at large is dependent on government schemes and welfare proposals as most of them are uneducated and spend most of their lives solely in this profession.
Our country has a huge coastline of around 7500 km extending across 10 states and island territories.
Thus, fishing engages a significant portion of our population in the fishing business. It is reported that approximately 14 million of the country’s population is involved in the fishing industry.
An ideal day of a Fisherman
A fisherman lives and works near the water bodies. The one who lives near seashore starts his day even before sunrise.
A fisherman generally engages himself and becomes part of a group. He sets out to sail and catches fishes very early in the morning.
He generally has in possession, boats ranging from little ones to large boats, steamers to giant trawlers. Whether he uses the boats on rent or owns them depends on his economic status and financial condition.
Depending on the favorable or the unfavorable season, the kind of fish a fisherman intends to capture varies. A fisherman generally travels into sea with metal hooks, fishing nets and other fishing tools.
Usually a fishing exercise gets over before sunset. A good day is when a fisherman is able to catch fishes in abundance.
That day he and his family make a small feast. A fisherman’s life revolves around in this way and they generally feast on small things that make them happy.
After a fisherman comes back with his catch, he and his lady start segregating the fishes on the shore.
Once sorted the fishes are taken to local markets for sale. The fisherman has to sell the caught fishes to locals for consumption. He has to be able to do his business by sending the caught fishes to markets.
The fishing markets are located in interior regions generally. So it’s a life full of hardship for him. He also has to sell to the right customers to engage it for export.
It’s a means of livelihood for the fisherman and that is how his life revolves around. So right from procuring the raw material to segregating it and then finally marketing it, a fisherman has to master all possible skills of his trade.
In an off-season, a typical day is spent in repairing the nets, fixing the boats and planning the next fishing activity. A fisherman’s life is in sync with nature’s clock. It involves lot of physical labor, teamwork and skill.
Inland fresh water fishing has a slightly different pattern. There is no restriction in time or requirement of groups to carry out fishing.
Here, water bodies are smaller in size compared to big river streams.
A fisherman naturally acquires knowledge of areas that contain high density of fishes. This wisdom is passed over from generations and by his own experience.
Challenges faced by a typical Fisherman
Fishing is a big business. A majority of the fishes is consumed within the country itself. Hence, like agricultural export, is not looked upon as a great profession.
It is an uncertain occupation due to high dependence on seasons, is prone to maritime disasters like tsunami and torrential rainfall.
Fishes are perishable items and require good storage and transport facilities. They cannot be stored for too long.
When importing fishes from one land into another, fishes of a particular breed of fish may or may not survive in varying environmental conditions.
A fisherman in general gets meager income from fishing. High competition exists with his counterparts is also another reason for poor income generation.
Nature’s constraints leave a fisherman in helpless situations and they may suffer without work, income & support for his family.
Importance for the country and the way forward
Fish consumption is very high all over world. They form an important sector of food production, providing nutritional security to the food basket (Shrimps, prawn, crabs).
Presently, there are huge varieties that offer variety in taste. They are rich in protein. They bring in lot of foreign currency when exported.
A fisherman toils in his trade just like a farmer toils in the fields. So, importance has to be given to both the professions on par, considering the economic importance of the trade.
A fisherman should have access to easy bank loans for purchasing better boats and procuring tools . He should have a support system to mitigate the risks associated with his loan purchase.
Better relation with neighboring countries sharing waters should be forged.
Infrastructure development (for preservation of fishes) and providing basic facilities like good roads for transport connectivity. The fishing sector should be more organized and accountable.
Life of a fisherman might appear to be adventurous but is actually a hardscrabble, and the government should seriously work towards the welfare of the fishing business and help those involved in the trade as a means of their livelihood.