Hear my cry: What will we eat if you take away our fish?


13 Oct 2021  |   07:31am IST

Hear my cry: What will we eat if you take away our fish?

Hear my cry: What will we eat if you take away our fish?

The full-fledged cry of traditional Goan fishermen to a fisherman from Karnataka who had crossed over illegally, that there is no fish in Goa’s waters, is a shame on everyone who claims to be a decision-maker and leader in Goa.

These fishermen have been literally fighting for their survival and fighting with big trawlers who have clearly taken away the fish stock from their waters. On Monday when fishing vessels from Karnataka entered Goan waters in Betul they alerted the coastal police, they gave chase to the trawler on speed boats provided by a local traditional fisherman Pele Fernandes.

When the trawlers were brought in, the cry of Goan fishermen was too painful. While congratulating the coastal police, one local fisherman said, “From 3 in the morning I have been out. But have got nothing. We have no money, our stomachs are empty and you people come from outside (to take away Goan fish).”

The sea wealth of Goa is literally pulled away by these monster LED boats. And yet, the government does little to stop them

The LED lobby has been so powerful that the government really hasn’t been able to control them. But who has suffered? Our traditional Goan fishermen.

In May 2016 Goa government banned the use of LED by trawlers 

In three months, in August, it lifted the ban and permitted the use of this lighting equipment on boats in areas beyond 12 nautical miles.

The then Fisheries Minister Avertano Furtado, who has now joined the Congress, has said that outstation fishermen would have to submit an affidavit stating that they would not fish in State waters. And, they should install trackers so that the government can verify their location of fishing.

None of this has happened and fishermen continue to come close to or into Goans waters to fish making a mockery of all restrictions. The ban on LED fishing inland waters also exists.

The head of every Goan should hang when Goans practising our land’s most traditional occupations have such heartbreaking moments

The traditional fishermen decided to even take out their mechanised speed boats and lend them to the coastal police because no interceptor boats of the force are in order and lying at the coastal stations. And they helped in the interception and arrest of the Karnataka fishermen. But the manner in which they lashed out at the Karnataka fishermen reflected both the hurt at them as well, as the disappointment they had with their own government and leaders, for not giving them basic protection and support. At the same time, the inaction of the government has led to the destruction of one of Goa’s most valuable natural resources.

Why is infrastructure in coastal police stations being allowed to rot? Doesn’t this make our coasts unsafe and the livelihoods and lives of our fishermen vulnerable?

Can one even imagine something like this? Nine interceptor boats, so important to give chase and trap vessels that are suspicious of carrying out illegal activities or moving illegal goods or contraband are not functioning. It is criminal negligence on the part of the government not to keep these boats in full working condition.

Apart from the fishing community, others will ask who will be held accountable for the absolutely crippled coastal police which needs to chase down intruders on private speedboats lent by water sports operators.

Where is the Fisheries Minister? Where is the local MLA? 

Why was there not a single statement from the government or local leader or anyone from the opposition, including the former fisheries minister Avertano Furtado from the neighbouring constituency? The Cutbona jetty, the nerve centre of Goan fishermen of South Goa falls under the Velim constituency represented by the turncoat Fisheries Minister Filipe Nery Rodrigues, who defected to the BJP. The Betul jetty, an area where many fishermen live falls in the Quepem constituency represented by the Deputy Chief Minister and another defector MLA Babu Kavlekar. The Talpona jetty falls in the Canacona constituency, again represented by another 

defector MLA Isidore Fernandes.

The question that Goa’s traditional fishermen are asking: Where were the people we voted for during our times of need? Goan fishermen are our pride, they are the soul of Goa and they are a key element of what Goan identity is all about.

That pride has been badly hurt. On one hand, the polluted waters of our rivers and the sea has killed the treasure of the sea – its fish and other seafood and on the other, big trawlers and other boats fitted with LED lights have been illegally crossing over to our waters and trapping fish sometimes even the smaller ones, along with their babies. These LED boats can even be outside our waters but shine the lights on the water to stun the fish towards the boats.

There was a time when the rivers and sea gave Goan fishing families everything

Traditional fishing families never had any need. Each caught fish for themselves and their neighbours. At times the fish they caught was exchanged for rice and vegetables with neighbours and all were well fed and happy. The simple ease of life went on for generations. Many tuned this way of life into a good honest business. But the greed of some has led to the Goan waters not having any fish.

Sea pollution is at an all-time high. With pollution and construction debris filling into the seas and rivers, the colour of the waters is changing. Many beaches have become black due to coal and other polluting.

Extinct shellfish: Our sea is getting empty of its treasures. So much so, even our shellfish is getting extinct. And these days when you cast a net in the sea instead of fish you get plastic. The treasure chest is now dumping. Rampant construction licenses have been given on farms and fields.

Ultimately, Goa’s soul rests with its fishermen. And Goa has forgotten its soul.


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