Fishermen return to the sea after ban lifted

Updated August 04, 2019

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FISHERMEN help launch a vessel while (right) ice is being loaded on to a boat at the harbour on Saturday to help keep the catch fresh. — Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
FISHERMEN help launch a vessel while (right) ice is being loaded on to a boat at the harbour on Saturday to help keep the catch fresh. — Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Acting as human tugboats, there were fishermen happily helping out by pushing boat after boat standing in queue towards the open sea at the Fisheries Harbour here on Saturday. The work was tiring but heading out to sea for fishing after two months they all seemed extra energised.

“There was the annual ban on fishing from June 1 to July 31, which was lifted on August 1 and everyone is glad to be back at work,” said Mansoor Ahmed Ghaznavi, assistant director, Fisheries Harbour Authority. “We have been seeing off hundreds of fishing boats in the last two days since the lifting of the ban,” he added.

The boats were all nice and clean as well as well-stocked with enough rations for two months for the crew. “They are usually out in the sea for 15-day fishing expeditions but they stock up for more in case of emergencies. Since the boats have good insulation and huge freezers for storing the catch they also take with them enough ice to keep the catch fresh,” he said as the boats still in the queue were being loaded up with food and ice.

“Still, around this time there are pleasant surprises in store too. The boats return sooner than the fishermen are expecting themselves as they find plenty of catch nearby. So they don’t need to travel too far,” he added.

“The two months when fishing is banned are a difficult time for fishermen. Their entire livelihood depends on fishing,” said Mohammad Sulaiman, an old fisherman who also owns two fishing boats now.

“Though we clean up our storage areas and mend our nets along with checking the boats’ other equipment for any needed repairs after every fishing expedition, I particularly make use of this time to service my boats and get their engines overhauled,” he said.

FISHERMEN help launch a vessel while (right) ice is being loaded on to a boat at the harbour on Saturday to help keep the catch fresh.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
FISHERMEN help launch a vessel while (right) ice is being loaded on to a boat at the harbour on Saturday to help keep the catch fresh.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

“I was also just a fisherman once so I know well the problems faced by my crew in making two ends meet during the fishing ban. That’s why I pay them a salary of Rs10,000 each. This is also to keep them employed with me as I don’t want to lose good experienced men in the off season to anyone else.

“I know it isn’t much but I am also not very rich. The men also find something or the other to do which helps them supplement their income such as work as lifeguards at beaches or in mango orchards or vegetable farms,” he pointed out.

People often try to remember the breeding season of fish and shrimp by the name of months that don’t have the letter ‘R’ in them. Hence they refrain from buying or having seafood in May, June, July, and August though the official ban is just for two months. It also serves well as a safety measure as the sea is also rather rough during these monsoon months.

Earlier, Chairman, Fishermen Cooperative Society, Abdul Barr said that seafood was a big source of income for the fisherfolk community. It also helps the country earn foreign exchange so they are paying special attention to cleanliness of the boats and the fisheries harbour.

Director of quality control Shazia Naz also said that she was glad to see how the fishing harbour had recently been upgraded according to European Union standards.

Commissioner of fisheries development Dr Shafia Mushtaq said that she felt happy too to find so many positive changes at the fisheries harbour lately.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2019