Ban on fishing reimposed due to bad weather

Those associated with the profession were already out of jobs for three months due to lockdown

Shakir Sultan July 14, 2020
While the Sindh government had lifted its ban on deep-sea fishing in June, rough seas led to the ban’s reimposition in July, leaving fishing communities in dire straits once again. PHOTO: EXPRESS


When a lockdown was imposed in Karachi in March to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the province, the Sindh government also banned the fishermen community from deep-sea fishing. Barred from what had been their primary source of livelihood for generations, poor fishermen were forced to face severe financial constraints.

On June 1, the government decided to lift the ban on fishing after three months. The move, however, did not bring much relief to the poverty-stricken community as on July 1, just a month later, the ban was reimposed.

A written notification about the ban was jointly issued by the Karachi Port Trust (KPT), the Coast Guard, and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency to all fishermen of Karachi and their related organisations.

The earlier ban on fishing left thousands of fishermen jobless for three consecutive months in Karachi’s Baba, Bhit, Manora, and Salehabad Islands, together with the coastal areas of Ibrahim Hyderi and Keamari. With unemployment and no income, fishermen and their families were left to starve.

While the previous ban was imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19, the Sindh government clarified that the recent ban was brought down because of bad weather forecasts in the Arabian Sea. Explaining that open-sea fishing in bad weather can be extremely dangerous, officials said the decision was taken for the safety of fishermen.

The same fishermen, on the other hand, say that July is the best month for them to go fishing. Aamir, a fisherman from Bhit, said that every year in July, the Sindh government issues a notification to ban them from deep-sea fishing for safety reasons.

“Previously, the ban only applied to launches and fishing trawlers that hunt lobsters and large fish. Small launches were exempt from the ban,” Aamir said. “But this year, the Sindh government has even banned small launches from sailing out to the sea. This is an economic massacre of all fishermen. We are planning to go on a hunger strike to protest the move.”

He added that Pakistan Peoples Party MPAs and other competent authorities were approached for help, but their request fell on deaf ears.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Pakistan Fishermen’s Union president Dr Muhammad Yousuf opposed the Sindh government’s move. He narrated that a meeting was held on June 3 this year in the office of the fisheries secretary, chaired by MNA Abdul Qadir Patel. The meeting was attended by several other notable officials, including the Harbour Authority and Fisheries managing director and deputy secretary.

“During the meeting, it was decided that all types of launches and fishing trawlers would be banned in June and July because of the rough situation at sea. It was decided that violators’ launches and catch will be confiscated,” he said.

According to Dr Yousuf, fishermen were normally prohibited from catching prawns in June and July as it is their breeding season. But this year, poor fishermen have been banned from catching small fish as well. “Fishing is their only source of income. This move is abusive and cruel,” he said. “Launches owned by bureaucrats and other officials from Ibrahim Hyderi are still used for catching prawns, which are still being sold throughout Karachi. However, the ban is only for poor, working-class fishermen.”

A resident of Baba Island, Abdul Salam, who used to catch fish on a small boat, complained that the coronavirus epidemic and lockdown had already made life a living hell for fishing communities, and now the government has reimposed the ban.

“I am illiterate and don’t have any other skills except for fishing. How will I sustain myself and my family if the government will not consider our plight?” he lamented. “They should either think about the practical implications before making such decisions or they should help us financially.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2020.


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