By Priya Prasad
RATNAGIRI: As the fisheries’ contribution to the country’s GDP has grown to 1.1 per cent, it has thrown open doors not only for many aspiring job seekers but has also attracted graduates to seek training in what is seen as a profitable and prosperous career.
Swapna Mohite, researcher and teacher at College of Fisheries, Ratnagiri says that research in fisheries is a very lucrative field. “We can say fisheries education began in the 70s, but the field is still young. There is so much to do, so many species to discover,” she adds.
Mahendra Jadhav, an Assistant Fisheries Development Officer at Ratnagiri says that when he decided to enter the fisheries line, the scope was tremendous. “One could enter the medical or veterinary fields but fisheries had greater scope, people were few. Fisheries Development Officer, District Development Officer, Fisheries Curator, Fisheries Commissioner, these were some of the posts available then. A few of my batch mates have become agricultural research scientists. There is considerable scope for the future,” says Jadhav.
The degree course at the College of Fisheries, Ratnagiri provides students with the option for self-employment. However, students are not prepared to take up the hard work involved in setting up a venture. “Students’ expectations have increased. It [a job in fisheries] is not like a 9 to 5 job where you work and earn a salary. In a processing company, you have to work 12 hours or sometimes even 24 hours. If you have a fish farm, you have to be on your farm throughout the culture period because you are dealing with live specimens. If even a single parameter goes wrong, the entire culture can collapse,” adds Mohite.
However, she says that students working abroad in processing industries and fish farms are optimistic about their career prospects. This holds true not only abroad but locally as well.
A third year student at the College of Fisheries, Ratnagiri, Uday Gavidh wants to start his own business, “I want to get into the brackish water aquaculture business. I have already started one [a culture farm] in Dahanu (near Mumbai) and I want to open another one this June. There is a particular species of shrimp that grows the fastest; it has a five month culture period. I would like to sell this in the Bombay market.”
However, despite such scope and growth, the field is not receiving the development it requires. “The boats that catch fish face many problems—they do not receive ice on time, they don’t get diesel. If they do get diesel, they do not get any subsidies, if they do get subsidies, then they don’t get enough diesel, so they will incur a loss. The fisheries societies need manpower, modern nets and vessels. They need these things to start something new and the government needs to provide this,” says Jadhav.
Another problem, says Jadhav, is that the wrong people hold positions in fisheries, “Earlier, BSc Zoology degree holders would occupy vacancies as fisheries development officers and assistants. In Zoology, they teach only one subject of fisheries which has one credit. If they [the government] are giving degrees to BFSc students but taking money from BSc students and then giving them preference, what is the need for a fisheries degree?”
Jadhav says that students from the College of Fisheries, Ratnagiri discussed this issue with ministers from the Nagpur assembly demanding that only BFSc students be given preference for jobs.
This move proved effective. “In 2007, there were 14 positions but there was a stay [order] and after that there were no positions at all. So, now in 2014, after 7 years, 14 positions for the Assistant Fisheries Development Officer have opened up. The students’ efforts have borne fruit,” says Jadhav
While prospects for employment and opportunities for quality education are available a plenty for those with the means and access to the services, the fisheries industries also employs a large number of manual and migrant labourers. Akash Salunke, student at the College of Fisheries, Ratnagiri, says, “There is scope for degree holders to get government jobs, but those who do not have degrees, such as manual labourers, do not have the opportunity to improve their earnings. This is the biggest problem.”