This chapter explores two concurrent processes in the fisheries of Tamil Nadu, India, over the past century: technological modernization and demographic growth. The first process is closely connected to the Blue Revolution instigated by the Government of India after Independence, as well as to the globalization of markets. It has resulted in substantial increases in sectoral wealth. The second process is the increasing size of the fishing population through natural growth and immigration. I situate the poverty that still occurs in Indian fisheries in the confluence of these two processes, arguing that varying institutional arrangements which structure participation have an important effect on poverty’s availability and location. The chapter centers on one particular district – Ramnathapuram – which has witnessed particularly dramatic increases in its fishing population compared to other parts of the South Indian coastline. This has resulted in specific patterns of poverty and riches.
- Fishing Population
- Fishing Ground
- Trawl Fishery
- Capture Fishery
- Legal Pluralism
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Compare Salagrama’s (2004, p. 13) analysis of all-India trends which argues that catch per unit effort (CPUE) of artisanal fishers has declined since 1980.
Debates on the correlation between caste and occupation in India are heated and inconclusive as to the details. Observers will agree, however, on the main marine fishing castes of Tamil Nadu – the Pattinavar, Paravar, and Mukkuvar – who dominate the Coromandel Coast, the Gulf of Mannar, and the southern reaches of Tamil Nadu, respectively.
The 2000 census of the Fisheries Department of Tamil Nadu mentions 184 fishing settlements in Ramnad District. This includes, however, a large number of interior villages in which marine fishing is not the dominant, but a supplementary, activity.
Interestingly, this expansion has not resulted in a significant growth of the average size of the settlements in Ramnad (see Table 9.5). Instead, it seems as if expansion has been complemented by a process of administrative subdivision. At specific locations, I therefore observe a clustering of fisher settlements into smaller and larger towns.
In 2007, the Tamil Nadu government announced an effort to re-count and re-register trawler vessels in the state. This exercise was considered necessary in lieu of evidence of gross over-registration.
These non-state institutions are found throughout rural India, and are to be distinguished from the Gram Panchayats instituted by the government of India as the lowest tier of administration and political representation.
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In writing this chapter, I have benefited greatly from the constructive comments of Svein Jentoft, Ratana Chuenpagdee, and other members of the PovFish group. I am also grateful to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), and particularly to the IDPAD program which funded my Ramnad research under Project Nr 5.2.110 entitled: Cooperation in a Context of Crisis: Public-Private Management of Marine Fisheries in South Asia. Appreciation is extended to the Norwegian Research Council for funding the PovFish project.
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Bavinck, M. (2011). Wealth, Poverty, and Immigration: The Role of Institutions in the Fisheries of Tamil Nadu, India. In: Jentoft, S., Eide, A. (eds) Poverty Mosaics: Realities and Prospects in Small-Scale Fisheries. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-1582-0_9
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