With the annual fishing ban for eastern coastal states drawing to a close on June 14, fisherfolk in Nagapattinam and Mayiladuthurai districts, concerned over their counterparts in Karaikal exploiting the fish breeding that thrived in the 61-day period by resorting to pair trawling, have threatened to take law into their own hands if the activity goes unchecked. Tension between Karaikal and the two coastal delta districts of Tamil Nadu have been on the rise in recent years over pair trawling. Being part of the Union Territory of Puducherry, Karaikal fisherfolk do not respect Tamil Nadu’s laws on trawling, say the state’s fishers.

Pair trawling is the practice of two trawlers using a single trawl net to fish at sea. The practice has been banned under Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Act citing the possibility of exploiting the fish resources in sea. A few months ago, Nagapattinam fishers attempted to corner the trawlers from Karaikal over the practice. Police and fisheries department officials, however, intervened.

The tension appeared evident on Saturday when a meeting convened at Akkaraipettai, considered the ‘chief fisherfolk village’ in the coastal delta region, did not have fisher representatives from Karaikal as they were not invited. Akkaraipettai representatives reasoned that they have had enough of Karaikal fishers’ antics.

On Tuesday, fisher representatives submitted a petition with Nagapattinam Collector Johny Tom Varghese seeking steps to make Karaikal fishers stop pair trawling. M Ganesan, a fisherfolk representative from Akkaraipettai, said, “We have resolved that the Tamil Nadu fisheries department and the law enforcement agencies should prevent Karaikal fishers from trawling in pairs in our state waters. Karaikal fishers are not welcome if they resort to the practice. If they persist, our fisherfolk in Nagapattinam and Mayiladuthurai districts would seize them and hand them over to authorities.”

The fisher representatives also resolved not to resume fishing on June 14 until the authorities ensure that Karaikal fishers give up pair trawling. R Soundarapandiyan, another representative from Akkaraipettai, said, “Pair trawling takes a toll on the resources in sea, affecting our livelihoods. Despite warnings, our counterparts in Karaikal are still engaged in the practice. If they continue, our men from the two districts have resolved not to labour in their boats, not do business with them and not provide them inputs such as ice blocks for preservation.” When contacted, a fisheries department official in Nagapattinam said they would initiate action such as vessel and net seizure of those Karaikal fishers found indulging in pair trawling.