HYDERABAD: Unusual stormy winds have made the sea quite rough and disturbed fishing activities on the entire 350 kilometre long coastline of Sindh, including Sujawal, Thatta, Badin and Karachi, reports reaching here said on Wednesday.
Senior fishermen, who keep a close eye over the changing weather phenomenon, pointed out that the situation was the same along the entire coastline of Pakistan in Sindh and Balochistan, where heavy rains with thunderstorms have disturbed fishing activities and destroyed shelters.
Many boat accidents have also been reported in different parts of Thatta, Sujawal and Karachi due to the recent strong winds. Reports gathered from different areas along Sindh’s coastline reveal that a large number of boats, which went out to the sea before April 13-14, 2019 have not returned back. Relatives have shown concern about the safety and wellbeing of the crew members of the missing boats.
Noor Muhammad Thahemore from Jati said though the situation looks normal on surface, the community remains tense since some boats remain trapped on open waters. The rough seas ahead of expected seasonal high tides were frightening for the community, who were not ready to face the sudden change in weather. Reports from Sujawal and Thatta coastal areas show that boats were returning half-way after realising the changing sea weather phenomenon, he added.
Gulab Shah from Keti Bunder said some boat accidents have been reported from nearby areas; however, prompt rescue by community and marine agencies saved crew members and their vessels. “There are also reports of destruction of makeshift abodes along the coast due to strong winds, leaving people in a helpless situation,” he added.
Shah said usually the months of April, May, June and July were uncertain for the local marine fishermen as strong winds increased boat accidents along the coast and in the sea. Many boats failed to go out into the open waters for routine catch, and were waiting for the weather to normalise so they could resume their livelihood activities.
But, Shah said, in this season high tides, expected to hit the area in the last week of April, always created problems for the coastal communities as well as boat crews in the sea. The community faces hardships in harvesting fishing nets and pulling them out of the water during the rough weather.
Saeed Baloch, general secretary of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), said they have received a report that one boat carrying 18 crew members had gone missing after April 14, 2019. “Fishermen Cooperative Society (FCS) and other marine authorities are looking at the possibility to save the boat and its crews,” he said.
There were also reports that 40 missing crew members of seven boats, which moved to the sea a few days back, had not returned till the filing of this report. According to Baloch, some boats, which left the Karachi Fisheries Harbour and traditional jetties for open waters, might be trapped in high tides amid rough weather. “We are collecting information about the boats and crews, which left their landing sites, and there has been no report about their whereabouts,” he added.
Asif Bhattai of Bhit Island, Karachi leading Native and Indigenous Fishermen Association (Nifa) said the alert system at the harbour had not been working since it was installed. “The authorities failed to issue alert in a timely manner for fishermen in the sea,” he lamented, pointing out that boats were capsizing near the coastline and creeks, and some were stuck on their way back due to strong winds.
He also said the weather was far more unsuitable for smaller boats, which moved nearer the coast. The authorities were looking for at least seven boats which left the Karachi harbour about a week ago. “There may be 40 or more crew members onboard these fishing vessels,” he added.
Bhattai recalled one new boat ‘Mashallah’, carrying 12 crew members had gone missing in 2010 after a similar weather incident of strong winds. “It has been 10 years, and we never heard about those men,” he added.
Pakistan Navy has also issued a warning and stopped all fishing operations from the harbours and jetties till the sea weather normalises. It has increased uncertainty among the fishermen, who fear for their survival.
There are more than 15,000 fishing boats operating only from Karachi fisheries harbour and jetties near coastal villages. The number of boats operating from Thatta, Sujawal and Badin districts coastal villages was also high.
The coastline of Sindh remains prone to disaster and over the past years many cyclones have developed and passed without harming the people.
However, 202 lives were lost when the devastating Cyclone A-02 hit Thatta and Badin districts on May 20, 1999 and affected 0.6 million people. More than three million fishermen were associated with marine fishing directly or indirectly, but the government does not have any strategy to provide the community any relief during difficult days.
Elderly people said this year fishing activities started after March 15, as the temperature increased. They remained idle for a long time during the entire winter, as the biting cold kept fishing activities frozen for small fishermen.
Community elders urge the provincial and federal governments to announce a package during such natural calamities, as they have no other sources of livelihood during such conditions to run their domestic affairs.