From GPS to echo, here’s a fisherman’s tech guide at sea – The Hindu

The net may be the first thing a fisherman picks up before heading to sea. These days, however, there’s one other thing that he can’t leave behind: his hand-held GPS. From the beginning of time, fishermen have been banking on two resources for guidance: water and air. They use water current, its temperature, the direction of wind and its humidity to lead them when they go fishing. Now, however, GPS does the same work for them.

“The Government gave 700 fishermen in our region walkie-talkies with built-in GPS in 2018,” says P Ethiraj, a fisherman who owns a fibreboat in Pulicat, 54 kilometres from Chennai. “The authorities have also fixed an antenna inside the premises of our market to support these walkie-talkies.” Ethiraj’s fibreboat is powered by a 10 HP engine. “In the past, most of us went by our instinct to a spot for fishing. But that didn’t always promise us a good catch. With GPS, however, we are mostly always rewarded,” explains the 50-year-old.

The ABCs of fishing tech

  • Global Positioning System (GPS): A satellite-navigation system that enables people on Earth to pin-point their exact location. GPS is owned by the United States Government.
  • Radar: Short for RAdio Detection And Ranging, this lets a boat ‘see’ what is ahead of it by emitting radio waves and waiting for the signal to be reflected back.
  • Echo sounding: This technology, which also shows spots where there are schools of fish, works by transmitting sound waves into water to determine its depth.
  • Fishfinders: Helps locate fish by detecting reflected pulses of sound energy. Some let users mark spots to return to later, as well as mark boat ramps and docks.

“We connect with fishermen on boats nearby over walkie-talkie; they lead us to spots where we are likely to find plenty of fish. Their directions are in the form of points from their GPS that we follow,” says Ethiraj. “We’ve been making good profits, thanks to this technology.”

Earnings apart, Ethiraj says that their GPS-enabled walkie-talkies have also saved lives. “Recently one night, fishermen from my village called for help while they were stranded at deep sea and we rushed to rescue them.” Ethiraj points out that these systems can also be used to contact the Coast Guard or bigger boats in case of an emergency.

According to author R N Joe D’Cruz, who has written extensively on the fishing community, and is also the CEO of a shipping company in Chennai, our country’s fishermen have been using GPS for the past 10 years. “Boats over 80 feet long involved in deep-sea fishing, use RADAR, echo sounding, as well as GPS,” he says. “Their economies allow them to invest in such technologies,” he explains.

Yugraj Singh Yadava, Director, Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-Governmental Organisation and, Project Manager, World Bank Ocean Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation — Bay of Bengal Project, says that fish finders and VHF (for communication) are also among the “common tools” for fishermen. Yadava says fishermen also use mobile phones in communication and trade. “However, connectivity is limited to 10 to 12 nautical miles from the shore,” he explains.

Fishermen using Global Positioning System (GPS) while fishing in the sea off Pudukudi village in Pudukottai district

Fishermen using Global Positioning System (GPS) while fishing in the sea off Pudukudi village in Pudukottai district
 
| Photo Credit:
HANDOUT

A small section of the community is still untouched by technology. “Artisanal fishermen who use non-motorised boats and fish at near-shore waters (around eight to 10 nautical miles from the shore) rely on lighthouses, stars, and city lights, and of course on their intuition,” explains Yadava. This, he believes, is “a strand of DNA in the genes they inherit from their forefathers”.

However, Joe fears that such traditional knowledge is fast disappearing. “Some 30 years ago, fishermen would secure their nets at one spot at sea and return the next day to collect it.” This was when GPS was unheard of. How did they know exactly where they’d find their nets? “They used landmarks on land,” explains Joe. A hill, a sliver of a waterfall, a peak that slightly sloped towards the right… these where their markers.

GPS map used by Manoj Chacko during deep sea fishing on Bay of Bengal in Chennai on August 25, 2010. In partnership with friend Mayilvaganan (a builder), Manoj runs Barracuda Bay Adventures, which takes groups into the sea for an experience of sea-fishing.

GPS map used by Manoj Chacko during deep sea fishing on Bay of Bengal in Chennai on August 25, 2010. In partnership with friend Mayilvaganan (a builder), Manoj runs Barracuda Bay Adventures, which takes groups into the sea for an experience of sea-fishing.
 
| Photo Credit:
K Pichumani

“Now that GPS has taken over, there is the risk of such practices not being passed on,” feels Joe. But there is also a positive side to this. “Fishing, like farming, is drawing a lot of educated youngsters who want to keep in touch with their roots. These people are able to combine technology and traditional knowledge.” But what is more important, according to Joe, is that the Government invests in technology that forecasts weather with clarity, so that fishermen know exactly when to head to sea and when to keep off it.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gps-radar-fishfinder-a-fishermans-tech-guide-at-sea/article27057023.ece

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