PANJIM: Goa’s traditional fishermen (Ramponnkar) community is apparently in survival crisis; majorly following rising diesel prices, cut in fuel subsidies or tremendous delay in disbursement of the government subsidies. Many boat owners have compelled to stop operation unable to bear the rising diesel price. Seby D’Souza, a trawler owner, from Khariwadi, suggests instead of reimbursement, govt should remove the VAT and give them diesel at Rs 76, as done in Karnataka.
Seby disclosed that the Society diesel pump installed by Indian Oil Corporation, charges higher diesel rate. He claimed that this is a consumer pump and rate of diesel should have been lower than retail outlets. “The diesel rate at this pump is Rs 116, compared to Rs 99 outside. So now trawler owners fetch diesel from outside the jetty for their trawlers,” said Seby and added that government subsidy had been pending for three years.
“One year subsidy has been released after persistent follow-up by our association president. When the pending subsidy would be released, we do not know,” said Seby.
Another trawler owner from Khariwada told Herald that the input costs for fishing have become very high. “The prices of diesel nearing Rs 100 and government subsidies are delayed. Salaries of workers have doubled. The cost of food for workers, repair cost of trawlers has jumped up three times. But prices of fish remained same, or have fallen,” said Dixon Pires.
Notwithstanding the severe setbacks faced during the COVID pandemic, nature has not been kind to the fishermen either. “The catch too is not good, since the weather condition is not conducive to fishing,” Pires said.
Jenny Gurjao regretted that compared to other states, the subsidy given by government is “nothing”. “Our government subsidy is like ‘alms’. Diesel price in other States is Rs 76, so they can even come into our State waters and do illegal fishing. Due to prohibitive costs of diesel we cannot go to other State waters and fish,” said Gurjao.
Ramponnkar regretted that government does not promote and support fishing, as other neighbouring States do. “Central and State Government schemes are not beneficial to us. We have fallen into a deep pit,” rued trawler owners from Khariwada.
Fishermen accused government of failing to crack down on bull trawling. They pointed out that the trawlers with 750 bhp motors plunder the waters. Roy Barretto, a trawler owner from Cavelossim said, “Bull trawling involves two boats dragging a big net, which covers an area of 250 meters. The mesh size of the net is small and involves destruction of small fish. Traditional ‘long line fishing’ is sustainable, since the mesh size of the nets is bigger and they drag the net for only about 6 to 10 meter.”
LED fishing practice also apparently diminishes their chance of good catch. The lights attract small fishes, which in turn attracts big fishes. Trawlers net the small fishes and use them as fish meal. Fishermen complain that this leads to decline in fish catch and rise in fish prices. There has been consistent decline in fish catch along the South Goa coast, regretted Barretto. “Failure on the part of the Fisheries Dept to crack down on bull trawling and LED fishing can lead to a fish famine in Goa and will end up destroying another traditional occupation of Goans and deprive them of their livelihood,” said Barretto.