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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Fishermen in Devbhumi Dwarka block highway to protest against delayed start to fishing season

Fishing season in Gujarat normally used to begin from August 15 and would go on till May 31. However, the Central government permits fishing from August 1.

By: Express News Service | Rajkot |
Updated: August 7, 2021 1:28:31 am
Devbhoomi Dwarka, fishermen, Gujarat, fishing season, south gujarat, Dwarka-okha highway, fishermen protest, indian express, indian express news, gujarat newsThe minister said that 90 per cent of fishermen wanted the season to be delayed. (Representational)

FISHERMEN OF Rupen harbour near Dwarka town in Devbhumi Dwarka district on Thursday blocked Dwarka-Okha highway demanding that they be allowed to start fishing, but the state government on Friday clarified that the decision to defer the beginning to the fishing season by a month was taken only after fishermen demanded so.

“During consultation, fishermen of Saurashtra as well as of south Gujarat requested that the fishing season be delayed by a month, as due to cyclones, the normal cycle of seasons seems to have been affected. Their argument was that sea remains rough during August and when the government directs fishermen to return to shores in events of cyclones, costs of fuel and ration they incur is huge but get little catch. Therefore, we agreed to their demand and notified that the fishing season will begin from September 1 this year instead of August 1,” Fisheries Minister Jawahar Chavda said.

The minister said that 90 per cent of fishermen wanted the season to be delayed. “Fishermen, who view their traditional occupation not as a business but as a religion are happy with the decision as they believe that the delayed start would allow juvenile fish to become adult and that would eventually lead to better catch over a season. However, a minority, who are not fishermen but businessmen are probably in a hurry to go to the sea,” said Chavda.

Fishing season in Gujarat normally used to begin from August 15 and would go on till May 31. However, the Central government permits fishing from August 1. Last year, the government started issuing tokens to fishermen for fishing trips from August 1 in line with other states like Maharashtra and Goa. But this year, it has decided to push the start to September 1.

“Leaders of fishermen organisations like Akhil Bharatiya Fishermen Association, Samyukta Machhimar Boat Association of Veraval etc made representations to the government, requesting delayed start to the fishing season and we welcomed the government’s subsequent decision. But we want that authorities to not allow any boat to set sail from any fishing harbour in the state till September 1,” Mukesh Panjari, president of Porbandar Machhimar Boat Association said.

However, Rupen fishermen said they Covid-19 has hit them badly and that small time fishermen need to begin fishing to provide for their families. “Due to the pandemic, past two fishing seasons have been affected and whatever little savings fishermen had were spent in getting treatment of Covid early this year. As the fishing season has been delayed, around 12,000 residents are struggling to make the ends meet. We made representations to the government that those operating pilanas should be allowed to start fishing but to no avail. The previous day, police caught fishermen on board five boats after they went to the sea. Therefore, people came on the highway on Thursday to protest,” Satar Bharucha, president of Sagar Rupen Macchimar Samaj Association told The Indian Express.

Bharucha said that Rupen fishermen operate only pilanas (small boats) powered OBMs (onboard motors) which can go on fishing trips only one day long whereas fishermen of Porbandar, Veraval etc operate large fishing trawlers whose fishing season typically lasts for two weeks.

“Rupen fishermen are living a hand-to-mouth life wherein they require to earn something daily so that they can afford ration etc for that day. In any case, our boats are not large enough to go far from coast and therefore in events of cyclone we can always return to coast immediately. The government should have taken this into consideration. But instead, they are treating us at par with big fishermen who operate five to 15 trawlers,” the Rupen fishermen leader said, adding they have moved the Gujarat High Court against the Fisheries Commissioner’s circular dated July 15 which ordered September 1 as the beginning of the fishing season this year.

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