Use of Chinese fishing nets, a dying heritage in Kochi

With Kochi fast emerging as an Information Technology hub and business city, one of its oldest practices faces the possibility of extinction. The use of the famous Chinese fishing nets at the Fort Kochi Beach, 700-year-old heritage, is on its way out in the fast growing city.The nets once attracted tourists and locals. Only ten are left out of the 20, and most fishermen are finding it hard to maintain them. According to an old fisherman, after the monsoon season, the two months that follow, are reaping time for net owners and labourers. This season, the catch has been much less as compared to earlier years, mainly due to the heavy flow of water caused by incessant rains. “We all are finding it hard this time. For last many years, we never experienced something like this,” claims Mohammad Abduty, a fisherman. Water pollutants and oil in the seawater have forced fishing boats to suspend their operations. Fisherfolk are in debt due to the high maintenance costs involved in keeping their nets in good condition. The cost of making one of these nets is estimated to be anywhere between Rs. two and three lakhs, depending upon its size.The money earned through the sale of fish is shared between the owner of the net and the labourer on a 70:30 ratio basis. Earlier, each laborer used to earn between 100 to 200 rupees for a few hours of work. Now, this has decreased to 20 to 50 rupees a day, which is insufficient.

The Government to has not come forward with an offer of any loan or grant to sustain this heritage. The catch is usually modest with a few variety fishes. These are then sold to passers or tourists. Mohammad Syed, a labourer, said: “Government and travel agencies cash on us by charging heavy amounts from tourists to show our work. But they never try to help us out.” The nets are lowered into the water by the crane like structure and raised after a few minutes. The system is sufficiently balanced to allow a man to walk along the main beam. The Chinese fishing nets in Kerala are one of a kind in India. It is believed that traders from the court of Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets to Cochin coast in Kerala in the 14th century.

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9/06/2007 10:27 am delete

Sad isn't it how we throw away the heritage of our forefathers for the 'new','slick','modern','in-vogue'. It makes me ill.
There's an old saying, "You can't stop progress". I wish 'progress' would realize what exactly it is they are destroying.
I pray the Indian Government gets their heads out of the sand and gives these fisherfolk the assistance and help the so desperately need. Perhaps they could put the same energy into the sea as they have in the railroads.