The 800,000-strong fishing community in Maharashtra on Monday demanded compensation for what they claimed were huge losses to their trade following the oil spill outside Mumbai.
The state government and maritime authorities have banned all fishing activities in and around the Mumbai coast till the oil slick is brought under control while the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai cautioned people to refrain from consuming sea products.
This has proved to be a double blow for the fishing community, especially the small and marginal fishermen who conduct the trade on a daily basis, the Maharashtra Fishermen's Association said in Mumbai on Monday.
"Over 6,000 small fishermen owning small boats are virtually threatened with starvation as they work and earn on a daily basis. The oil spillage has spelt doom for their trade and they are sitting at home since three days," association chief Damodar Tandel told IANS.
He has shot off a letter to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and district authorities demanding compensation for the affected small fishermen whose trade has been hit.
"As per the various shipping laws in force, we are entitled to adequate compensation in the event of losses to our trade arising out of factors like oil spill. Accordingly, we have sought compensation of Rs 10,000 per month per small fisherman till the fishing activity normalises," Tandel said.
He said that the oil spill that affects the entire Maharashtra coastal region, comprising Thane, Mumbai, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg could have long term ramifications for the fishing trade.
Efforts are on to combat the oil spill spanning around two miles in the Arabian Sea, three days after Panamanian cargo carrier MSC Chitra and a St Kitts ship MV Khalijia-III collided outside the Mumbai harbour, barely five km from south Mumbai.
The fishing community has taken a 10-week break during the monsoon season in view of the hazardous sailing conditions and also since it is breeding time for the fish. But around 6,000 small and marginal fishermen continued to fish along the coast even during the monsoon to make ends meet.
Also, even after the fishing activity resumes from Aug 15, the community has apprehensions about the near future in view of the oil spill.
Meanwhile, prices of sea products have already hit the sky in different fish markets around Mumbai which are presently selling frozen stuff.
The prices of all-time favourites like prawns and pomfrets has shown a three-to-five fold hike in rates as compared to the prices last week, before the oil spill, with a cascading effect on the menu rates in restaurants across the city.
There are around 800,000 fishermen with more than 21,000 huge fishing boats and another 6,000 small fishermen with around 500 small boats in the state.