Fishing is getting techno-savvy, Sneha Mahale reports.
The fishing community is increasingly depending on modern technology such as the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and on-board communication devices to give them a cutting edge. For generations, fishermen have relied on traditional methods such as reflections in the moonlight and the sense of smell to identify the ideal locations to cast their nets.
A GPS system, which costs up to ₹5,000, makes their catch easier. Once a shoal is spotted, the information is spread via mobile phones. "This helps us to reduce time wastage and increase our catch," says Krishna Verma, a fisherman in Bandra. Other 'in' gadgets include the fish finder, a device which locates fish in difficult sea conditions, the hand radio and other computer-related applications.
The funding for these gadgets is relatively easy. Associations like the Danda Koli Fishing Society, located in Bandra's Koliwada, look after Mumbai's fishing community.
Established in 1980, it has a staff of 23. Of these, 18 are the association's board members. They give loans to the fishermen up to ₹40 lakh at the rate of 12 per cent interest per annum. And they aren't very strict in terms of collecting the dues. On considering a fisherman's lean patch, the association doesn't hesitate in waiving off a certain amount or even the full loan.
In most circumstances, though, 70 per cent of the loan has to be repaid within 12 years. The remaining 30 per cent can be viewed as a subsidy that need not be repaid.
In deep waters
The days of rowing a boat with two oars have passed. Fishermen now use engine boats after being trained. The training course, conducted by the state government, is open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 35. "It's not compulsory but several fishermen do take up training to learn how to use the boat engine," says Ashok Karnik, a fisherman.
Fishing techniques too have evolved. Deep-sea fishing is a much-relied-upon option. To escape contaminated waters, the fish move to the deeper waters. This increases the cost of fuel and maintenance of the boat's engine. It also means that fishermen have to take safety-training lessons to survive the rough seas.
"Deep sea fishing is quite a task," says Ram Tarkari, a fisherman. At least ₹75,000 is a must for eight days of deep-sea fishing. The investment is worth the trouble only if fish of a minimum worth of ₹1 lakh is caught.
On the upside, deep-sea fishing could lead to a catch of rare species of fish which can be sold at a higher price. Rock and sea lobsters, tiger prawns, small sharks, octopii, catfish and salmon are mainly found in deep waters. Tiger prawns cost up to ₹750 a piece.