World Oceans Day - Varkala beach located in South Kerala by advertising photographer Sudhir Ramchandran
Varkala beach located in South Kerala by advertising photographer Sudhir Ramchandran

The ocean is an essential source of food for humans. Fishing keeps one in six people alive. However from the 50s oceans are being exhausted by climate change and the exhaustion of resources is taking its toll. Fish consumption has increased 5 fold in only 50 years! Where once we thought the ocean was infinite, now we are discovering that it is fragile and sensitive to our actions.

I shot this fishing scene off the Varkala beach located in South Kerala at the north end border of Trivandrum. The only place in Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea. Here I have spent all my teenage life, learning at the Kerala universities in the North and South of Kerala. Change in the environment here hardly came by until the past 20 years. Today the beaches are dotted with innumerable hotels and tourists. Then came the industrial fishing boats. Every morning they left the jetty and headed of to the deeper seas looking for larger supplies of fish. Traditional fisherman around the world are finding it increasingly difficult to do their job. The entire marine ecosystem is at risk. It is important to understand that over 200 million people, particularly from developing countries depend on fishing to make a living and as part of their food supply.

What do the industrial fishing do? By capturing the slow moving emperor fish, grenadiers and swordfish they are killing off fishes that are over a hundred years old! They are served as rare delicacies. Their population has dropped by over 90 percent.
Industrial fishing has wiped out 90% of the large frequently seen fishes that include the cod, halibut and tuna. Reports state that more than 75% of the fish supply as either been wiped out or is on its way to being so.

Funny, but only one in 10 fisherman is an industrial fisherman; yet they are responsible for half of the world’s catch of fish. Equipped with radar and sonar equipments, these giant boats can pinpoint schools of fish and their nets go deeper and deeper into the ocean floor. This kind of fishing isn’t sustainable- for marine life or for fishermen throughout the world.

As a child I had done my daily trips with my dad to the Kariako fish market in Dar es Salaam. Today it is at Kivukoni and Mzizima. The iconic greetings are still there from the genial fishermen. However the tales of fishing are missing. The excitement and the grand adventures are over.

I join the environmentalists to insist that fishing should return to the traditional fishermen and that industrial fishing must be regulated. Fish stocks can replenish themselves organically providing fishing is moderated.

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