Fishing activity in the marine and inland water sector in Kerala came to a standstill on Monday when a section of workers resorted to a strike to protest against the rise in kerosene prices.

The Kerala Matsya Mekhala Samrakshana Samithi (a forum of unions cutting across the political divide) gave the strike call not only against the fuel price hike, but also against the policies adopted by the central and state governments, which had alienated the fishing community from its traditional means of livelihood.

The Samithy said the authorities were chalking out plans to evict the fishing community from their original places of residence through a rehabilitation programme under Punargeham. The fishing community’s request to contain pollution and to remove silt in inland water bodies had not been considered.

Climate change has also had an impact on the sector with a declining catch leading to a shortage of fish. Given the situation, the Samithy leaders urged the government to announce a financial package for the fishing community to tide over the crisis.

The leaders said the government should supply kerosene to fishing vessels at Rs 25.

Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Owners’ Association said more than 3,000 mechanised fishing boats and around 10,000 traditional boats participated in the strike. He said the cost of diesel has made it difficult for fishing boats to venture into the sea and the declining catch on account of climate change issues had made things worse for boat owners. The government should initiate steps to extend subsidies similar to those announced by the Tamil Nadu government.