In a major move towards promoting cost-effective and sustainable practices, the Fisheries department in Kerala will soon launch a programme to convert kerosene engines in the State’s fishing fleet. While fishers can choose any alternative that includes petrol, diesel and gas, the government will provide around 50% subsidy for switching to new engines.

“Fishers from the Kerala coast widely use kerosene as fuel and this is not an ideal option for many reasons. While 1 litre kerosene will cover hardly 9 km, you can cruise double the distance with other fuels as they are more efficient. It is also an attempt to bring down marine pollution caused by kerosene,” Fisheries Minister V. Abdurahiman told The Hindu.

Prior to implementing the project, the department had conducted an inspection of crafts using kerosene in all nine coastal districts and issued permits. While many fishing States have already converted a major portion of their fleet, fishers from Kerala and a couple of districts in Tamil Nadu still stick to kerosene. Currently, over 10,000 fishing boats in Kerala use kerosene, and the department plans to convert them in a phased manner. “Some believe it is the best fuel to navigate the waves, but that is an incorrect notion,” the Minister said.

If the fuel cost of a traditional craft with kerosene engine is around ₹60,000 for a single trip, using petrol will reduce it to ₹30,000 and switching to diesel will further bring it down to ₹15,000. While the Fisheries department will provide the fund for changing the carburetor, 40% to 50% subsidy will be offered through Matsyafed for replacing the engine.

Mr. Abdurahiman said the Fisheries department and Indian Oil Corporation Limited will soon conduct a programme in Alappuzha district to demonstrate the advantages of converting to gas. The recent surge in kerosene prices and the delay in the disbursal of subsidised kerosene had put traditional fishers in a difficult situation. At present, they are forced to venture deep due to the lack of resources in territorial waters, he added.

Through awareness programmes and incentives, the department aims at converting maximum number of boats and hopes that fishers will soon realise the substantial benefits of the move, he said. “The major objective is to make fishing profitable and pollution-free. While the engine conversion will bring in a huge difference in operational costs, it will also help in conserving marine ecosystems,” said Mr. Abdurahiman.