After Cyclone Ockhi wreaked devastation on the fishermen community in Kerala, the notion that the state’s coast is safe and secure has been demolished, said the leader of a prominent fishermen’s union.
“It seems we have learnt no lessons after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Kerala’s coast was always sensitive and fragile. After Cyclone Ockhi, circumstances have changed. That the notion of our coast is safe and secure has been demolished,” said Charles George, president of the Kerala Matsyathozihilali Aikyavedi.
George demanded that the state government must seriously examine the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts required in the main coastal areas of Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. He claimed that the fisheries sector, over the years, had already been affected by global warming and the gradual heating of seawater causing a steep decline in the catch of pelagic fish like oil sardines, mackerel and anchovies. These fishes used to be the target of 90 per cent of fishermen in the state, he said.
“Now, Cyclone Ockhi has sprinkled salt on our wounds,” said George. “For decades, our demand has been that a separate ministry for the fisheries sector should be created at the Centre. It continues to be under the Agriculture ministry. And the Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has not even visited Thiruvananthapuram after the cyclone,” he complained.
Fish prices soar in Kochi
On Thursday, for the first time after Cyclone Ockhi breezed through the Arabian Sea, fishermen in small boats ventured out to sea near Kochi and neighbouring areas. Retail markets in the city saw higher prices for fish varieties like sardines, which are a local favourite.
“Mathi (sardine) usually sells for Rs 70-80 per kg depending on the catch. But today, after the boats came back, it sold for Rs 130/kg in the market,” said Sebastian, who owns a shop at the Chambakkara market. “All these days, we were selling river fish,” he added.
It’s a collapse
An official at Matsyafed, the state co-operative federation for fisheries development, in Thiruvananthapuram said it was procuring only frozen fish at the moment as fishermen have not been going out to sea. “Since they are not going out to sea, there is no fresh fish. In this situation, we cannot ask them,” the official said. “There has been a collapse. Our fish stall at Palayam remains closed at the moment,” the official added.