MARGAO: The World Fisheries Day will be observed on Tuesday, November 21, but the fishing community across Goa has lamented that the State government has failed to fulfil their demands and address their grievances.
The Goenchea Ramponkarancho Ekvott (GRE) and All Goa Small-Scale Responsible Fisheries Union (AGSSRFU) have organised programmes on Tuesday to commemorate the occasion, they are wary of the government making gestures and statements full of tokenism in light of the present scenario where it has fallen short of meeting its promises made in the past.
The local fishermen near Vainguinim Beach, Dona Paula and River Chapora in North Goa complained that they were not allowed to venture into the water for nearly a month during the National Games and were not even allowed to park their canoes and store their nets by the beach or on the river banks.
In South Goa, there have been multiple meetings wherein the local fishermen, be it traditional ramponkars or boat owners, have expressed their concern on getting limited space at the SGPDA wholesale fish market and even being evicted from the market premises at a time when they believe the authorities have been prioritising the wholesale traders over their needs.
Concerns raised by the traditional ramponkars who underscored the broader challenges they encounter in sustaining their livelihood amidst inadequate government support.
Boat owners at Cutbona Jetty slammed that government for failing to address infrastructural gaps including the delay in constructing the much-needed breakwater facility at the mouth of River Sal, given the navigational challenges faced by the trawlers due to the sandbar that blocks their access to the sea and back to the jetty. This demand has been taken up time and time again by Cutbona Fisheries Cooperative Society (CFCS).
These issues are also faced by the traditional fishermen in neighbouring Betul.
It may be recalled that the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) had presented a list of demands to the Union Fisheries Ministry and State Fisheries Department highlighting many of these problems.
Some of the key demands were banning destructive fishing methods, a Fisher’s Rights Act, regularisation of fishermen’s houses, increased subsidies, interest-free loans to specific regulations for various fishing equipment and insurance policies for fishermen facing losses during natural disasters.
Environmental concerns, such as oil spillage and beach erosion, further compound the challenges faced by the fishing community. NFF had called for legislative measures to address these issues, emphasising the impact on marine life and coastal areas.
While the Fisheries Department claims to provide support and implement coastal security measures, the fishing community insists on comprehensive action and stronger surveillance of illegal fishing activity taking place in the sea by boats from neighbouring States or local purse seine trawlers carrying out illegal LED fishing.
The fishing community like GRE and AGSSRFU have warned that if steps are not taken to protect the interests of the local fishermen who have been carrying out this business for generations, then there would be a worrisome future where there won’t be fish in the sea and families dependent on fishing would suffer greatly.