For most of us, scuba diving is merely a vacation activity, bringing out our adventurous side. But, for Puducherry fishermen Desapan, Karthi or Ravi, scuba diving has transformed their lives, giving them more identity and recognition than ever, aside from ensuring a better income and better livelihood. Thanks to professional scuba diver SB Aravind and his team ‘Templa Adventures’, these fishermen are now engaged in clearing the ocean bed of ‘ghost nets’, plastic waste, aiming to restore the marine biodiversity in the region.
“It took us years to convince the fishermen about this activity, as they felt underwater diving is driving their fish away. They were not very fond of us, needless to say. See today, many of the fishermen have changed their profession into full-time divers and piloting ocean bed cleaning drives in Puducherry, Chennai and Kanyakumari coast,” reveals SB Aravind, in a conversation with Efforts For Good.
No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank
The ‘ghost nets’ which killed the fish
There was a time when fishing was limited to small boats and daring fishermen who braved the stormy seas for their families. Now they can only be found as protagonists of yellowed novels. Since the inception of big trawlers and large nylon fishing nets, survival has become challenging for individual fishermen, as well as the marine aquatic life.
The fishermen who spend their whole day in the sea rarely think twice before throwing plastic carry bags or bottles into the water. Rainwater also washes away plastic waste from landfills and dump yards into the ocean.
“While sailing through narrow coves, the big fishing nets hanging from trawlers often get caught in the reefs. The fishermen are left with no choice but to cut the nets and sail forward. These nets, called ‘ghost nets’, end up spanning kilometres of the sea bed. Fish, aquatic animals and even live corals are left stuck there to die,” explains Aravind.
In addition, climate change and heating up of the ocean water is also harming the biodiversity manifolds.