The fisheries department has approached the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) in Kochi to detect a possible vulnerability in trawlers used in Kakdwip, Frazergunj, Namkhana, Raidighi and other fishing harbours and landing centres in South 24 Parganas and suggest ways to prevent such incidents.
While trawlers are used by fishermen in South 24 Parganas as well as East Midnapore, their designs are different. Those used in South 24 Parganas are similar to vessels that ply the waters of Bangladesh and have a V-shaped hull and a narrow bottom. In contrast, the trawlers used in East Midnapore are similar to those used in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh with a U-shaped hull and a wider bottom. Also, these vessels have a wooden beam that runs along the entire length of the base.
Bijon Maity of Kakdwip Fishermen’s Association said the number of trawlers that had capsized in South 24 Parganas over the past five years was significantly more than in East Midnapore. While there had been five mishaps in East Midnapore that led to nine deaths, there have been 35 capsizes in South 24 Parganas, leading to 125 deaths.
Nearly all the incidents that have been recorded this year have happened between 4am and 6am and around 15-18km from the fishing harbour while the fishermen were returning with the catch.
Last Wednesday, the issue was discussed in detail by fisheries minister Akhil Giri, Sunderban affairs minister Bankim Hazra, South 24 Parganas district magistrate P Ulganathan, fisheries additional director (marine) Jayanta Kumar Pradhan and members of fishermen associations. “In most of the incidents near the South 24 Parganas coast, vessels appear to have capsized after hitting a sand bank or silt deposit. We have therefore asked CIFT to look into the issue,” said Pradhan.
The difference in shape, traditional vessel manufacturers like Anibas Das say, is more to do with the topography. While fishermen in South 24 Parganas have to negotiate shallow waters in creeks and rivers before hitting the Bay of Bengal, their counterparts in East Midnapore have good draft all the way.
The fisheries minister said the government was aware of the enormity of the challenge. “If a design change is suggested, we will have to incorporate it when the permit renewal happens,” Giri said. A trawler costs around Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1 crore. There are around 11,500 deep sea fishing boats in operation in South 24 Parganas.
Read More:Lens on trawler design after spate of capsizes | Kolkata News