Coronavirus outbreak: Crisis maroons fishermen, vendors

Updated: 13 April, 2020 07:28 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Hundreds of fisherfolk have been forced to dump their catch back into the sea; 10,000 boats anchored

Fishing boats have been anchored at koliwadas across the city
Fishing boats have been anchored at koliwadas across the city

The fishermen from Worli, Marve, Moragaon, Versova, Manor koliwadas and other coastal areas of the state are facing one of the toughest phases of their lives in terms of livelihood. With the government extending the lockdown till April 30, most of them have been forced to dump their catch back into the sea with no hope of selling it.

Speaking to mid-day, Hemant Koli, chairman of Malwani Fishermen Society (covers a vast area from Versova, Madh Island to Dahisar, including Gorai), said, "This is the first time in our life that our boats are anchored during the peak season. With only a couple of weeks for monsoon to set in, we are having one of the worst fishing seasons ever."

More than 10,000 fishing boats have been anchored across the state due to a lack of demand in view of the nationwide lockdown, which has now been extended till April 30
More than 10,000 fishing boats have been anchored across the state due to a lack of demand in view of the nationwide lockdown, which has now been extended till April 30

A Malwani-Marve Koliwada resident, Koli further said, "We have about 120 fishing boats, and for a fisherman, his boat is more than his life. We take utmost care of our boats, as it is our source of livelihood. Boats are either anchored or just floating in the waters now, as no one is venturing into the sea." He added, "Even if we get the catch, there is no market due to the lockdown. Around 250-300 households directly depend on fishing, with over 3–4 lakh people earning a livelihood from this. About 600-700 fisherwomen, who sell the catch in markets and residential localities, run their families with these earnings. All of it has stopped abruptly due to the lockdown."

"Due to the tetrapods placed at Moragaon beach in Juhu soil erosion is taking place. As the boats are anchored very close to each other, they are getting damaged due to contant brushing," said Nicholas Alemida, founder trustee of Watchdog Foundation, who has written to the union home ministry requesting intervention in the matter.

More than 10,000 fishing boats have been anchored across the state due to a lack of demand in view of the nationwide lockdown, which has now been extended till April 30

When contacted, Advocate Godfrey Pimenta, founder trustee of Watch Dog Foundation and Bombay East Indian Association, said, "The fishing community has been the worst hit by the lockdown. Although there is no restriction on fishing activities, it has been suspended due to logistic issues. Monsoon will arrive soon and the fishermen won't be able to venture out around that time. Hence, we have requested for a special package from both the state and central government."

Pimenta further said, "The Union home department issued a circular last week lifting restrictions on transportation and sale of fish. However, this looks good only on paper, as the reality is that no fish is available in the market. Secondly, as Section 144 is in place, people cannot move out of their houses and visit markets to buy fish. Hence, our plea for a compensation package should be accepted."

Fisherfolk sell their catch during the peak season last year
Fisherfolk sell their catch during the peak season last year

The situation at Worli Koliwada is the same, but unlike Marve where fishermen can at least take a look at their fishing boats daily, at Worli they are not allowed to venture out, said Samir Nakhwa, a fisherman from Worli Koliwada. Samir, 32, and his brother, Mayur, 34, are residents of Worli Koliwada and they own two fishing boats. However, they have not been able to venture out in the sea since the past couple of weeks.

"We get a good variety of fish from March to May end, which is the peak season. The earnings during this time take care of the lean period, which is primarily monsoon. The women usually dry the fish before it is sold to the middlemen.

Nicholas Almeida

The catch during this time usually helps each family earn around '2.50 lakh to '3 lakh," said Samir.

"Many of those who accompany us on the fishing boats are daily wagers, who are paid around '250 to '300 daily. But we had to let go off four to five men as we are sitting at home doing nothing," he added.

"We have never seen our fishing boats anchored during the peak season. This is the first time our boats are not where they are supposed to be, that is deep in the sea. Post May 31, the official fishing period will come to an end and we don't know how to survive," said their aged father, Chandu Nakhwa.

"The government has always been sensitive towards farmers' issue, but the fishermen have always been neglected. If we do not get monetary aid from the government, we will be left starving in the next couple of weeks," said a fisherman.

Rs 2.5-3lakh
Amount each fisher family earns during the peak season

600-700
No. of fisherwomen involved in the business

1.5k
No. of fisher families in Worli Koliwada

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First Published: 13 April, 2020 07:20 IST

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