The New Indian Express , 03 June 2006

Tsunami inspires fishermen to embrace tech

CHENNAI: Fishermen in Chennai are increasingly becoming tech-savvy especially after the tsunami, a tragedy which drove home the importance of modern communication and navigation equipment among fishermen.

Wireless, global positioning system (GPS) and echo-sounder are gaining popularity among fishermen the last two years. Of the 650 mechanised boats in Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, around 150 have these equipment now.

Recently, a dozen fishermen who were stranded mid sea after their boat developed a snag, were rescued in time because they were able to radio another boat which alerted their colleagues ashore. The reach of wireless is about 80 km and it costs more than Rs 10,500.

GPS serves as a route guide, showing the direction to the destination through a monitor, on registering the code of the place as available in the marine chart.

‘‘A maximum of 1,000 routes can be stored in a GPS. It also sounds an alarm if we move away from the route,’’ says Dayalan, a fisherman in Kasimedu Fishing Harbour. The echo-sounder helps fishermen to not only measure the ocean depth but also enables them to monitor schools of fish or rocks under water.

‘‘Through echo-sounder one can see to a depth of 1,500 metre and it will show the movement of fishes, rocks and even mud under the sea. If there are huge under sea rocks, we can then be careful about using nets,’’ says another fisherman.

The fishermen usually use the echo-sounder to see if an area is a good fishing ground. ``We then find the code of that place in the marine chart and register that code and route in the GPS. We can then easily reach the same place, next day,’’ he adds.

Now, the fishermen urge the State Government to reduce the price of these equipment. While the government offers all three equipment for Rs 1.50 lakh with a subsidy, not all fishermen can afford them.

‘‘When these equipment can be purchased from the local market at a lesser cost, we appeal to the government to reduce the price. While the loss of lives of fishermen go unnoticed and unrecorded, the government should realise that these are life-saving equipment,’’ says K Bharati, president of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association.