Fishing industry: Lifeblood of the coastal regions | Daily News


Fishing industry: Lifeblood of the coastal regions

Fishermen get ready to venture to the sea.
Fishermen get ready to venture to the sea.

Fish is an essential food item in our daily life. Generally it is difficult to eat our meals, especially lunch without a good fish curry. We go to our nearest fish vendor, fish stall, public market or supermarket to purchase our fish. People who reside in coastal areas are fortunate enough to buy newly caught fresh fish from the nearby beaches. Some men who sell fish, carry two baskets hanging on a long wooden pole. It is identified as a pingo.

There are several kinds of fish in the market. Sprats, Karalla, Handella, Keeramin, Salaya, Soodaya, Silindo, Bolla are some of the fish of the small varieties. Some of the medium size fish are Mullets, Moralla, Habarali, Piyamassa, Hurullo and Kumbalawo, Lena Paraw, Sura Paraw. Koppara, Thalapath, Shark, Seer fish and Ray fish are some of the big fish, which are in high demand among fish consuming general public of Sri Lanka. China, India, Indonesia, Peru, USA, Chile, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Russia are considered as the top fish producing countries of the world. Incidentally canned fish or tinned fish is also popular. Popular canned fish producing countries are Chile, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Ecuador, Canada, India, United States, Norway, and Malaysia. It is interesting to note that canned fish from Chile is considered as the best variety.

Techniques and devices

Fish is caught by several techniques. Hand-gathering, Spear fishing, Netting, Angling, Line fishing and Trapping are some of them. Ordinary fishermen use various kinds of nets to catch fish. Stilt fishing is popular in some parts of Sri Lanka, especially in down South areas such as Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa, Ahangama, Mirissa, Koggala and Kaththaluwa.

Traditional fishermen use small boats, catamarans and pedal boats to catch fish. Inboard multi-day boats( IMUL), Inboard single-day boats (IDAY), Out-boat engine fiberglass reinforced plastic boats (OFRP), Motorized traditional boats( MTRB), Non-traditional boats (NTRB), inland fishing crafts, ordinary fishing vessels and beach seine crafts are used in commercial fishing. Trawler vessels are used to catch a wide range of fish and in almost every country across the globe. They are generally used for small scale fisheries, but they can also go for deep sea fishing. Fishing trawlers are classified as Outrigger trawlers, Beam trawlers, Otter trawlers, Pair trawlers, Side trawlers, Stern trawlers, Freezer trawlers and Wet fish trawlers. The biggest fish factory vessel in the world is able to process 547,000 tons of fish per annum and it was built in Japan. It is well known as ‘Damanzaihao’.

Fishing timings

The day’s catch at the beach.

Fishing during night time is more profitable, especially early in the evening and very early in the morning. Weather, seasons, tides, times, Sun, Moon play a pivotal role in catching fish. During rainy weather fishermen generally avoid going to the sea because of heavy rain, high-speed winds, thunder and lightning.

Fish curry is prepared in so many cuisines. Kirata, Mirisata, Ambul thiyal are some of the most popular ways to prepare a delicious fish curry. Devilled fish is a wonderful delicacy. Various short-eats such as rolls, cutlets, patties, samosas, fish-rotties, and fish-buns are made with fish.

During seasons fishermen catch fish in large quantities. Fresh fish tend to spoil soon. They preserve these excess fish by traditional methods such as salting, smoking and drying. Drying fish is a most popular method to preserve fish from ancient times. Mannar is famous for quality dried fish. Curing ‘Jaadi’ is a unique art and it has to be done with much care. The fish has to be free of water. Salt and ‘Goraka’ have to be placed in layers and upon which the fish is kept in a pot for 2 or 3 weeks. Incidentally Dodanduwa in the South is well known for this Jaadi fish delicacy. Maldive fish is a boiled, smoked and sun dried fish and they are mostly from Maldives Islands. Among the dry fish sprats and katta take the lead and they are usually tempered with various vegetables or onions and are great rice pullers.

Art of buying fish

Buying good fresh fish is an art of its own. Some unscrupulous, crafty fish vendors easily hoodwink innocent customers by selling stale, old, iced fish. Fresh fish have bright, clear cum bulging eyes, pink or red gills, firm, shiny plus moist flesh and a mild scent. The flesh of the fish should be bouncy on touching it. The skin should not look dull and should have a natural metallic glow. The surface of the skin must be tight and the scales must be tightly attached. Cracked skin or loose scales may be signs of rotting. Usually salt water fish smell briny and fresh water fish smell like a clean pond.

Idioms, Phrasal verbs and words with the word fish or with various kinds of fish names is a fascinating subject. The best examples are Holy Mackerel, Like a stunned Mullet, Green around the gills, A red Herring, To have the memory of a Gold fish, A small Fry, Packed in like a Sardines and to Carp about something.

Fishing villages

During leisure times one of my friends used to say, let us sing some songs based on sea, fish and fishermen. To my amazement I found many songs based on the above theme. Sada Sulan Hamanne by Wally Bastians, Walla Sibina Ralle by Mohideen Beig, Muhudu Ralla by Clarence Wijewardena and The Golden Chimes, Maalu Welendaa by Jay Brothers, Gana Andure by Milton Mallwarachchi with Clarence and The Super Golden Chimes, Maha Muhudu Vimane by Shelton Perera, Maha Sayure Diya Gambare by Malkanthi Nandasiri, Maha Sayure Gamburu Diye by Shelton Muthunamage with Sun Flowers, Oruwe Nagala by Nelson Vaas and Sun Flowers, Nona Meegamu Mamalu Vishaka Samarawickrama and Sri Lankians, Oru Kandath Dirala by Sohan Weerasinghe and the X’periments, and many more.

Ambalangoda, Beruwala, Chilaw, Dodanduwa, Dickowita North, Dickowita South, Galle, Hambantota, Hikkaduwa, Kalpitiya, Kirinda, Kudawella, Mirissa, Negombo, Nilwella, Panadura, Puranawella, Suduwella, Tangalle, Trincomalee and Valachchenai are some of the fishery harbours of Sri Lanka.

Along the 1770 km long coast of Sri Lanka, there are 969 fishing villages.

There is one person in most of the households, for whom fish is an essential food item. That person is not a stranger, it is the furred friend of many, the beloved cat. Other than the domestic cats, raccoons, skunks, otters, bears and several species of wild cats, including ocelots, fishing cats and servals eat fish. Fish is a delicacy for birds like kingfishers, storks, cranes, cormorants, penguins, terns, anhingas, osprey, bald eagles, gulls, gannets, terns, pelicans and puffins.

Fishing in the big vast ocean in anticipation of a bountiful catch, upon rolling waves big and small, during the pitch dark night is a life threatening experience risking one’s own life. If the fishermen get enough or plenty of fish in their nets and the catch is good and rich, their hearts are full of joy and satisfaction and they praise God with thankful hearts. They sail away from the shore upon the waves of the sea, utilizing the strength of their hands, throw their nets close and afar and catch a load of fish in order to maintain their family.

Only the courageous venture into the ocean. Fishing may be a risky job but it provides a livelihood to so many people all over the globe. Once fishermen set out to sea on a fishing venture it is not sure whether they return or not. Inclement weather in the form of rough seas, heavy rain, high-speed winds, thunder, lightning, storms, tornados, hurricanes, typhoons and gales put the fishermen in perilous situation. Poaching by foreign fishermen in Sri Lankan waters too pose a big threat to local fishermen’s livelihood. In one way fishing is a dangerous job. Therefore fisher folk need a good insurance coverage.

Many fishing villages of the island are not developed and are in a backward state. They should be developed with good housing schemes coupled with better water, electricity, sanitation, medical and educational facilities.

The biggest problem in world fishing is Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing which has the potential to wipe out entire species of fish. There is a network of huge freezer ships which can stay at sea for months on end, fishing 24/7. The future of the industry will be bleak if this is not tackled by the International Community. 

Visit Sri Lanka's Largest online shop. Over 125,000 unique categories such as Fresh Flowers, Cakes, Food, Jewllery, Childrens Toys and other Sri Lankan e-commerce categories. Low delivery cost to most cities here and free delivery in Colombo.

Add new comment