A fishermen from Velankanni uses his mobile phone to check weather conditions before entering the sea.
Photo: S. Balasubramanian


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Sailing out to sea in the morning and returning without a catch in the evening is now a thing of the past for many Indian fishermen. A satellite-based information system shows where they can find rich fishing grounds.

It’s 5 pm in the village of Velankanni in the southern state of Tamilnadu. Arumugam Nagaraj prepares his boat for fishing in the sea. He casually looks at his smart phone and checks the GPS location to find his way to fishes. Confidently, he steps into his boat, ready to catch fish for the day.

Like Arumugam, about seven million people spread across the 8,100 km coastline in India depend on fishing for their livelihood. In the past few years, unpredictable weather patterns and non-availability of fish in the usually available locations has, however, raised questions on the future of fishermen’s livelihood. Nagapattinam district, where Arumugam lives, faced the serious wrath of tsunami in 2004. “Since the tsunami devastated this coastal region, the fish catch and availability has changed, and so have the wind movements,” says Arumugam. “We used to go long distances into the sea, only to come back empty-handed.

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