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Mobiles to prevent Indians from fishing in troubled Lankan waters

Monday, 30 December 2013 | Kumar Chellappan | CHENNAI

Scientists of the Hyderabad-based Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai (MSSRF) and the Indian Coast Guard have found a solution to the vexatious problem faced by Tamil Nadu fishermen fishing in the Palk Bay region between India and Sri Lanka.

The routine answer given by the Tamil Nadu fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan Navy is that they do not know anything about the IMBL as there is no demarcation in the sea. T

From Monday, the mobile handsets of the fishermen would alert them if they reach near the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). “A Fisher Friend Mobile Application (FFMA), will be launched on Monday. It will alert fishermen along Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and southern part of Andhra Pradesh in their own regional languages if they come anywhere near the IMBL. This system has been developed in collaboration with INCOIS, ICG and the MSSRF,” said Velvizhi, coordinator of the programme.

The moment they enter the IMBL zone, the mobile phones they carry would produce a beeping sound to warn them that they are near sensitive zone. The closer they get to the IMBL, a text message will appear on the screens of their handsets warning them about the IMBL.

Even as Velvizhi was explaining the salient features of the FFMA, news was flashing across the TV screens announcing the arrest of 22 fishermen from Tamil Nadu by the Sri Lankan Navy.

“We hope to resolve this issue with the cooperation of the fishermen,” she said. Another feature developed by INCOIS, the information about which is being disseminated by MSSRF, helped fishermen in Kasimedu earn windfall profits on Saturday. “Fishermen in the region made a minimum earning of Rs 62,000 by catching tuna from the Bay of Bengal and Palk Bay area,” said Velvizhi.

The new application enables fishermen to access ocean stat information in real time. Details about potential fishing zone and variety of fish available were informed by INCOIS through the network of village resource centres and knowledge centres operated by the MSSRF in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

Saturday saw Venkitesh of Kasimedu near Chennai laughing all the way to bank as he made a clean profit of Rs 2 lakh. “Location specific details about potential fishing zone provided by INCOIS came in handy for us. They told us about the presence of tuna and also gave us exact location. Some of the boats had tuna catch worth Rs 6 lakh,” said Venkitesh, a fisherman.

The FFMA is being updated with advance warning about danger zones in the sea, like rocks, sunken ships and dead corral reefs which disturb smooth fishing operations. “Scientists in INCOIS have perfected a species specific forecasting with the aid of Global Positioning Services (GPS). That is how we alerted the fishing community about the tuna colony on Saturday,” said Velvizhi.

Specific Market Prices at each landing centres too would be provided to the fishermen with the initiative so that they could sell the catch in the market which offers them maximum price. The fishermen are already getting updates on weather, sea conditions like height of waves and temperature besides advance warning on cyclone and tsunami.

Though the project is being launched in only three States, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh, efforts are on to bring Odisha and Bengal under the network with forecasts in local languages. Velvizhi said it is possible to extend the initiative to the west coast by integrating region specific inputs.

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