The delicacy of seafood would bring a smile on the face of coastal dwellers just like 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 Fishermen”.
Fishermen are a community of people engaged in fishing as their primary occupation. Fishing collectively refers to catching aqua creature fit for eating. From shrimps, prawns to various types of fishes – catla, hilsa, salmon etc. Also fishing as an occupation involves sorting and selling them in local and global markets.
It is done both in fresh water sources like lakes, stream and rivers as well as in marine ecosystem of seas and oceans. The location plays an important role in making of a “Fishermen”. One must note just like farming even fishing is done in all states of India.
From Dal lake in Kashmir, to Ganga river and the majority of it along the coasts of India. Our country has huge coastline of around 7500km extending across 10 states and island territories, thus fishing engages a significant portion of our population approximately 14 million.
An ideal day of Fishermen
Majority of Fishermen live and work near the water bodies. Those living near seashore start their day even before the sunrise. Here fishermen work in groups and sail out to catch fishes very early in the morning. They have boats ranging from little ones to large boats, steamers to giant trawlers.
Depending on season and kind of fish they intend to capture, these men travel into sea with metal hooks, fishing nets and other tools. Usually fishing exercise gets over before sun comes overhead. A good day is when they catch fishes in abundance.
Back to the shore with their boats full of fishes both men and women start segregating the creatures. Once sorted the fishes are taken to local markets for sale. They sell it to locals for consumption, send to markets in interiors or sell it for export. It’s their means of livelihood.
Rest of the day goes in repairing the nets, fixing their boats and planning the next fishing activity. Their life is in sync with nature’s clock. It involves lot of physical labor, teamwork and skill.
Inland fresh water fishermen have little different pattern. They are not limited by time of day or dependent on groups for fishing activity as much as the coastal counterparts. As the water bodies are smaller like ponds or lakes and river streams.
They have knowledge of areas where more fishes can be found as per the season. No school imparts these skills in them. The wisdom is gained over generations and by experience at fishing from an early age. These folks cater to fish appetite of people in regions away from sea.
Fishing though forms such a huge sector of our agricultural export, is not looked upon as great profession. Majority of fishermen live in a village setting. It is an uncertain occupation due to high dependence on seasons, is prone to maritime disasters like Tsunami and torrential rainfalls.
Fishes are perishable item and require good storage and transport facility cannot be stored for long. Also crossing into other countries water territory puts them in tremendous troubles, along with risk of instant death due to weather changes amid sea away from home.
Fishermen families get meagre income from fishing. High competition as maximum people in the region are engaged in same profession. Some days they are limited and constrained by nature and can’t go for fishing leaving them without work, income & helpless.
Importance for country and 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). Present huge variety and taste, are rich in protein and are bring lot of foreign currency too when exported.
Fishermen should be given importance in line with farmers. States must bring forth the problems faced by fishermen and frame welfare policies. Easy loans for better boats and tools procurement. Improved weather report relay among fishermen to mitigate the risks associated.
Better relation with neighboring countries sharing waters to prevent humiliation on a crossing over. Infrastructure development (for preservation of fishes) and providing basic facilities like good roads for transport connectivity. Making the sector more organized and accountable.
Life of a fishermen might appear to be adventures but is actually a hardscrabble, that we collectively should work to improve and ease.