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Fishing Communities

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Fishing communities in India, are not homogenous, as they belong to different castes. These communities have their distinct social, cultural governance structures and traditional practices, depending on the coast, where they inhabit. Atleast 2-3 castes are exclusively involved in marine fishing in each maritime State, and are not related to the mainstream agrarian system.

The community institutions, (such as the caste panchayats, peddalu, padu system etc.,)mostly organized along caste, kinship or religious lines, play an important role in resolving conflicts, besides regulating and allocating resource use, ensuring equitable access to resources and providing some form of social insurance. Most communities have evolved their own management systems over time to regulate human interaction with the resource especially when large number of people bank on a limited resource to avoid conflicts. The evolution of traditional management system depended on the resource and the environment in which the resource existed and the interactions between people to extract these resources (Kurien, 1998).

Besides the traditional caste-based organization of fishing communities, they are also organized into various sectors such as the mechanized sector – boat owner associations, trade unions, cooperatives (both State-run and private), associations based on gear type, self help groups, federations etc

Some of the important fishing castes State-wise include:

Useful Resources


Books (Anthropological resources)

Books and documents (Fishing communities)

  • Blake, Allen Bradley. 1970. Technological change among the coastal marine fishermen of Madras State. Doctoral Thesis. University of Wisconsin.
  • Bavinck, M. 2008. Collective strategies and windfall catches: fisher responses to tsunami relief efforts in South India. Transforming Cultures 3 (2) 17 pp.
  • Bavinck, M. and D. Johnson 2008. Handling the legacy of the blue revolution in India – social justice and small-scale fisheries in a negative growth scenario. American Fisheries Society Symposium 49: 585-599.
  • Bavinck, M. and K. Karunaharan 2006. A history of nets and bans: restrictions on technical innovation along the Coromandel Coast of India. Maritime Studies –MAST 5(1) 45-59
  • Bavinck, M. 2001. Marine Resources Management: Conflict and regulation in the fisheries of the Coromandel Coast. Livelihood and Environment – 5. Sage Publications, New Delhi/ Thousand Oaks/London.
  • Bavinck, M. 2001. Caste panchayats and regulation of fisheries in Tamil Nadu, Economic and Political Weekly 36 (13): 1088-1094.
  • Bavinck, M. 2000. Trawler fishers and the maintenance of social boudaries in Chennai, South India. Presented at the IASCP Conference, Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
  • Bavinck, M. 1997. A history of nets and proscriptions; restrictions on technical innovation by artisanal fishing communities along the Coromandel Coast. South Indian Studies 3: 144-64.
  • Bavinck, M., 1997. Changing balance of power at sea; motorization of artisanal fishing craft, Economic and Political Weekly, 32 (5), 198-200.
  • Couthard, S. The interplay between fishing access and the ability to adapt: Insights from a South Indian fishery. Department of Economics and International Development, University of Bath, U.K
  • FAO/UNTRS. 2008. Setting directions for sustainable fisheries and coastal livelihoods in the post tsunami context, India: A report of the interventions by the FAO under the United Nations team for Tsunami Recovery Support. FAO, UNTRS and UNDP. New Delhi.
  • Gomathy, N.B. January, 2006. The role of traditional Panchayats in coastal fishing communities in Tamil Nadu, with special reference to their role in mediating Tsumani relief and rehabilitation. Proceedings from the ICSF Post-Tsunami Rehabilitation Workshop.
  • Jayaraman. R. 2005. Performance analysis of fisherwomen self help groups in Tamil Nadu. National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development. Download
  • Kurien, John. 1995. The Kerala model: Its central tendency and the outlier. Social scientist, Volume 23. No. 1-3 January -March 1995.
  • Kurien, John and A.J. Vijayan. 1995. Income spreading mechanisms in common property resource - Karanila system in Kerala's fishery. Economic and Political Weekly. Vol XXX. No.28, July 15.: 1780-86
  • Kurien, John. 1991. Traditional versus modern and co-evolutionary development potential: the case of marine fisheries in India. Social Action, Jan-March 1991:29-41
  • Kurien, John. 1980. Fishermen's cooperatives in Kerala: A critique. BOBP Newsletter. Madras. 26p.