Once a week, we, the participants of the Sea Turtle Conservation program (STC) of FSL-India, drive to one of the fishermen communities here, in the area of Kundapur. Meeting the fishermen is one of the most interesting tasks in our voluntary work. There, we have the opportunity to talk with the fishermen about different problems, e.g. the waste problem or overfishing that affect the fishermen, as well as the sea turtles.
The visit of the community is so important because we can learn from each other. We present our project to the fishermen and explain to them why sea turtles are so important for the ecosystem of the oceans and how they can benefit from protecting the sea turtles. The staple food of the sea turtles is jellyfish, which has a direct influence on their population. Jellyfish, in turn, are eating fish – consequently, a rising sea turtle population causes an increase in the fish population.
We see that the fishermen are motivated to engage themselves for the environment, but on the other hand, they have to secure their families, too. A good example is the harbour that had been constructed by the government, due to the requirements of the fishermen. It was wrongly constructed, which gave rise to coastal erosion. Earlier, the fishermen community lived 1 km away from the ocean and now, the sea is directly in front of them, so the government had installed wave breakers on the shore. On one hand, the fishermen are aware that this is not good for the sea turtles because they cannot nest at those beaches and they also know that this will have an adverse effect on the population of sea turtles and also the population of fish. On the other hand, their homes are in danger, because the sea is coming inward.
Another huge problem is the deep fishing by trawlers, which cause overfishing and the death of many sea turtles. In the eyes of the fishermen, a solution would be to forbid deep fishing. The fishermen told the FSL-India team, that they have already contacted the government and protested against trawlers for years, without any success.
In exchange, the FSL-India program participants learn a lot about fishing, the lifestyle of the fishermen and we can discuss together, how all the environmental problems could be solved. The support of the fishermen is pretty important for our project. The fishermen can call us when they see sea turtle eggs on the beach, or when they find an injured turtle. We, from the sea turtle conservation program, can benefit from the experiences of the fishermen. They can tell us about the developments of the population of the fish and jellyfish, which are an indicator for the sea turtle population in this area.
In the end, the fishermen visit is not only a knowledge exchange but also an intercultural exchange. We learn a lot about their lifestyle and sometimes, we talk about our countries and their cultural differences and similarities.