Deep Sea Fishermen In Bay of Bengal

Eastern coastal states of India.

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Fishing and aquaculture in India has a long history. Kautilya’s Arthashastra (321–300 B.C.) and King Someswara’s Manasottara (1127 A.D.) each refer to fish culture. Fish production in India has increased more than tenfold since its independence in 1947. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, fish output in India doubled between 1990 and 2010.

Even before the sun rises and warms the sea, there are men at work, braving the elements. The fishermen — depending on whether the type of catch they want — set out in the middle of the night or very early in the morning. To catch fish with metal hooks suspended by nylon threads is what takes the longest, and this sees them travelling deep into the sea. But to get a catch using their nets they don’t have to travel far. A ride in their motorized boats before sunrise will do. But there are also times when they go deep sea fishing in large boats stocked with food and water to help them survive 10 days at sea.

Once they are back in the morning, the boat is hauled to shore by the fishermen, who venture out in groups of four, sharing the burden, cost, profits and losses alike. There are days when they are blessed with plenty, but on other days they return empty-handed, with a loss they spend on diesel to fuel the motors.

Once sorted, the fishermen’s wives sell the fish in the market. Fishermen also sell to vendors depending on the best price offered and the vendors in turn sell them at the market.

In the evenings, the fishermen are free to relax, watch TV, spend time with family and catch up on gossip over mending nets and preparing for the next day.

While it is a profession filled with uncertainty, also uncertain is the future of this profession. Many fishermen send their children to school and want them to hold other jobs or businesses. They say that they do not want their children to struggle as they do and want a better life for them, leaving the future of this sea-dependent occupation in question.