Leading boat owners associations in Gujarat on Tuesday highlighted the challenges to their lives and livelihoods. The fisheries sector and fishing communities in the state and around the country are challenged by the lack of access to modern digital connectivity at sea.
The Veraval's Boat Owners' Association, Shree Kharva Sanyukta Machhimar Boat Association, supporting Indian fishermen for technology adoption, have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek his direct intervention to address their concerns.
They have highlighted need for adopting next-generation digital and satellite communications technologies to raise productivity of fishing harvests, create world-class competitiveness, ensure the safety of fishermen on the high seas, while accelerating the modernization and growth of the fisheries sector.
Tulsibhai Gohel, President of Veraval's Boat Owners' Association, Kharva Sanyukta Machhimar Boat Association, elaborating on the community's challenges, said, "There are perpetual issues that endanger our lives and our livelihoods, deeply impacting the well-being of our community and families. Fishermen are often trapped mid-sea and lose their lives due to a lack of timely information and lack of SoS data capability. Our vessels and fishermen are routinely apprehended by neighboring countries; Pakistan detaining 49 of Gujarat Fishermen on September 15 is only the latest such incident. We take great pride in our mission of feeding India, and risk our lives every day to do so -- we are in need of urgent Government intervention to keep us secure".
"Even though highly advanced and affordable technology that can benefit us is available, we are not getting the benefit of it since it has not been implemented by either the Center or the respective States. For instance, we have tested BSNL's transponder, which has two-way data communication directly over satellite and works in the deep sea. The Hon'ble Prime Minister's visionary PMMSY reform promises us change -- ensuring the safety and security of fishermen at sea. In line with his vision, our request to the Government is to broadly deploy the latest technology immediately as any delay will lead to further loss of lives. Each week, we lose our brothers to the sea. We need a solution today," he added.
Since COVID, it's imperative that fishermen feel safe to go out into the open waters to help feed the country of India and bring their hard-earned wages to their families. The Covid-19 lockdown had put the country's marine fishery sector in deep sea, inflicting a daily loss of Rs 24 crore as per a Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) report.
With the advent of new satellite technology, India today has access to services that can ensure the safety of fishermen through ubiquitous coverage that allows fishermen to communicate anywhere, even through the worst of storms, cyclones or other natural calamities.
Along with enhancing safety, technology can also help the fishermen raise their productivity and enable e-commerce transactions at sea. Through 2way data systems, it is now becoming easier to send fish location data to fishermen at sea to ensure better supply and demand matching, while allowing fishermen to access markets and transact at sea to maximize the value of their catch.
Despite being a sunrise sector, which engages over 2.8 crore fisherfolk with many more along the value chain, the fisheries sector continues to grapple with issues related to the growing loss of lives, with fishermen eagerly awaiting decisive action on behalf of the Government to reap the benefits of Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).
Indian Fishermen for Technology Adoption will continue to bring the numerous issues being faced by fishermen to the forefront. The focus will remain on the digital transformation of this important sector that can benefit fishermen directly and the country more broadly, especially emphasizing the need for prompt action to prevent further tragedies.
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