Writer: Risidra Mendis; Photographer: Chanaka Nalin
When my husband gets back from work, he is very tired. I help him to fold and put away the net. If the net is damaged, I repair it for him before his next trip out to sea. A fishing net can be used for three to six months depending on the type of net.
I cannot say how much I earn from a fishing net. I need to buy a piece of net at 150 to 200 rupees (USD 0.83 to 1.1 dollars) and then join the nets, piece by piece until I complete it. What I earn depends on the size and length of the net. If the net is two to three pieces, I get more and if not, less. The price of the net also differs according to the type of net. The Port City Project has destroyed the livelihoods of the fishermen. I’m also affected by the Port City Project. When fishermen don’t go out to sea, I cannot earn a living by making nets for them. If there is no demand for fish, there is no demand for fishing nets, and I have no income.
I have a son and two daughters. My son is 24 years old, and my daughters are 19 and 12 years. I was born in this village. My village is good, and the people are good. But the villagers don’t have jobs because they are fishermen. The sea was good, years ago. The fishermen had a good catch and earned well. But not anymore. The fishermen earn 150(USD 0.83 dollars), and sometimes, 200 rupees (USD 1.1 dollars) a day. Fishermen earned 30,000 to a 100,000 rupees (USD 165.31 to 551 dollars) per month, years ago.
Small types of fish, like the Salaya (Goldstrip Sardineslla) and the Sudaya (White Sardinella), get caught these days and my husband cannot earn from this catch. I can see the way my husband, and other fishermen are suffering. If the fishermen in the village couldn’t fish in the sea, they used the lagoon to catch shrimps and prawns and they earned a living. But today, the lagoon is also polluted and the fishermen are helpless. My husband now has to go far out to sea to catch some fish. He comes home after about three to four weeks.
The sea is badly damaged. There is no mud at the bottom of the sea for fish to breed. I don’t know if this problem can be solved, in the future, because the damage is too much. All governments are the same. They are only interested in their welfare and don’t care about poor people like us. Before the Port City started, the fishermen and I were told that we would be compensated for the damage caused to the sea and our fishing resources. We haven’t been paid a cent for the damage done. I wait patiently until the day when I will be compensated.