Going gets tough for fisherfolk

Many risk venturing into high seas for livelihood

All that Vayala Ramu, a fisherman from remote Potti Subbaiahpalem village, near Vetapalem, wants is to ensure a square meal to his family of four, including two children, by continuing fishing in the Bay of Bengal like his forefathers did. So is the case of thousands of ‘gangaputras’ from the 10 coastal mandals in Prakasam district, but they find the going tough due to depleting fish stocks on the east coast for various reasons, including over-exploitation, pollution and rising sea levels.

As a result, they are forced to travel long distances and venture into the high seas from Kerala and Karnataka and Gujarat on the west coast, they say.

With the 2004 tsunami and 2010 Lailo cycline still fresh in their minds, they avoid venturing into the sea on getting an alert from weathermen. “However, if a weather system develops when we are away in the high seas we have no other option but to weather the storm,” says Pallikari Srinu from the village. Sometimes they drift away into the territorial waters of Sri Lanka or Pakistan when weather systems develop or in case of an engine failure and may even get killed in firing by the foreign security forces.

Though they toil all through the year it is the boat owners who rake in the moolah due to a catch-sharing and contract system, they complain.

“We want the Union and State Governments to buy fish from us and provide it at an affordable price to people,” they say.

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