With the annual fishing ban period commencing today, fishermen have urged the State government to increase the subsidy amount from Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 per month. “Since it would cost at least Rs 2 lakh for the boats to be repaired and serviced for the next 61 days, the department concerned should reimburse the amount to us,” stated the fishermen at Kasimedu fish market.

The annual fishing ban period will start on April 15 till June 14, where the motorised traditional boats are permitted for fishing within a few nautical metres because it would not disturb the fish eggs in the bottom. However, the ban period is for mechanised boats because these would drag the nets to the bottom which would disturb the eggs laid there.

“The DMK promised to increase the subsidy amount to Rs 8,000 but only Rs 1,000 has been increased recently. The government should understand that Rs 6,000 will not be sufficient to run a family especially after a surge in process of essential commodities. Though the fish would be supplied from Kerala, we won’t earn any profit from it,” explained MD Dhayalan, president, Indian fisherman association, Kasimedu fishing harbour.

Pointing out that April-May is also the time for pay school fees, he added: “When there is no income during the ban, how can we afford to pay fees? A family needs at least Rs 10,000-20,000/month for basic needs. And the government expects us to manage with Rs 6,000. The department should at least take care of the fees or reimburse it. The State government doesn’t even consider our demands.”

As many as 3,500 boats will be repaired during the ban period in the harbour. The maintenance and repair works for small boats cost around Rs 3 lakh, whereas for big boats it’s around Rs 10-15 lakh. Daily wage for workers is around Rs 300 during the ban. Since, there is no profit, boat owners are forced to take debt. “For the last few years, we’ve been witnessing similar situations and still unable to close the debt. We spend Rs 2 lakh on maintaining the boats because it gets rusted without maintenance every two months.

After the December-floods, boats were damaged and we had to spend a lot to repair it. The State government did not even bother to provide relief funds apart from Rs 6,000 which was given to residents,” said K Mukesh Kumar, a fisherman at Kasimedu. Traders and fishermen lamented that after the ban period ended in 2023, there was poor catch in the sea because of climate change.

“The State government did not take steps to increase the subsidy even then. Though we’ve given ideas to the concerned department, they ignore it,” averred U Prabakaran, another fisherman. Fishermen have filed multiple petitions to the government to give them Rs 3 lakh for maintenance works. Or at least, help boat owners get bank loans. “The government has ignored all our demands,” they alleged. Meanwhile, for the next two months, fish will be supplied from Kerala and the prices of seafood are expected to spike exorbitantly.