TSUNAMI IMPACT: The Sea Siren Beckons But Fishermen Only Hear …

TSUNAMI IMPACT: The Sea Siren Beckons But Fishermen Only Hear …
Inter Press Service (subscription) – World

CHENNAI, India, Jan 17 (IPS) – The fishing folk on the coast of Tamil Nadu in southern India are among the most hardened traditional sea-faring communities anywhere in the world, with centuries old respect and reverence for the oceans.

But all that has changed after last month’s killer tsunami. Now, they have a deep fear of the sea that has sustained them for generations.

”We will break stones for a living but not go back to fishing,” Padavattan Etty, from Satras Kuppam, a fishing village 70 kilometers from Chennai the state capital, told IPS.

If such attitudes persist, that could have profound implications for the future and indeed the entire survival of this unique community that has so far withstood not just the ravages of nature but also various modern encroachments on their way of life.

An estimated 85 percent of people affected by the tsunami in Tamil Nadu are believed to be from the fishing community, which according to a census in 2000 was 700,000 strong.

Over 8,000 perished in Tamil Nadu when killer waves on Dec. 26, spawned by a colossal magnitude 9.0 undersea quake, lashed the coastline of a dozen Indian Ocean countries in South and South-east Asia.

Tamil Nadu’s fishing community is a significant contributor to the state economy with marine fish landings estimated around 380,000 metric tonnes per annum. About 58,000 metric tonnes of seafood valued at about 480 million U.S. dollars is exported annually from the seafood processing units located in the state.

Travelling from village to village along the Tamil Nadu coastline, the story is the same. Villagers, whether they are able-bodied men or women and children, are just too spooked to return to the sea to earn their livelihood.

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