Where have the fish gone: The impact of industrial development on fishworkers in Gujarat


This report was published by the Research Collective, Programme for Social Action, New Delhi, in November 2017. The study which was conducted over a year evaluates the impact of coastal industrialisation on fishworkers in the state of Gujarat.

The report divides Gujarat into four coastal zones – the Gulf of Kutch, the Gulf of Khambhat and the Saurashtra Coast. It critically examines the “fast track to progress” in Gujarat and how it has affected the fishing community there. It highlights issues such as pollution along the coastline and its impact on coastal and marine ecosystem.

This 121-page document is divided into two chapters: Overview of the Coast (Chapter 1); Estuaries, Fisheries and Borders (Chapter 2). By focussing on three critical coastal zones, Chapter 1 gives an overview of the fishing patterns of the communities, and the prevailing legal governance system. Chapter 2 investigates the impacts of coastal industrialisation on fishing communities. It includes five case studies from Valsad, Navsari and Surat districts in the Gulf of Khambat, one case study from Porbandar district in the Saurashtra Coast and four from the Kutch district in the Gulf of Kutch.


  1. Of the 33 districts in Gujarat, 14 are coastal districts with a coastline spanning 1,600 km. In the 550 coastal villages, about one million people live and depend on the coast for their livelihoods.

  2. The report cites data from Marine Fisheries Census to show a decrease in full-time fish workers and a marginal increase in part-time fish workers. Not only fish workers but also the number of fishing villages has reduced over time – from 263 villages in 2005 to 247 villages in 2010.

  3. Data from 2011-2012 show that districts in the Gulf of Kutch accounted for 20.23 per cent and Saurashtra coast 53.49 per cent of the fish catch in Gujarat.

  4. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Commissioner of Fisheries, Gujarat, shows that while the total catch in Gujarat decreased after 1995, the export volume has been constant. This indicates that more of the total catch is diverted to foreign markets.

  5. The mechanisation of fishing and the prevalence of large-scale industrialisation in the state, particularly near the coastal region, has increased marine pollution and reduced fisheries, the report states.

  6. As mechanised fishing became more common, the demand for cheap labour in these boats increased. Most of the cheap labour was provided by the displaced population from marginalised communities like Dalits and Adivasis.

  7. Another impact of the low fish catch is that now fisherfolk have to travel much further into the sea, which also leads to border conflicts. Because the area is a border region between India and Pakistan, the increased presence of Border Security Force has resulted in restrictions like frequent security checks, confiscation, limitations, etc., as well as constant fear and anxiety of surveillance.

  8. The data collection system is inadequate to assess the state of fisheries, fishing patterns, fish landing and discards in Gujarat. Hence, fishworkers across the coast who are in dept to fish traders, fall beyond the purview of government mechanisms in place. Policymakers, the report states, are often ignorant about the demands of fishworkers. Most of the time, policies are devised without consulting the fishworkers whose lives will be impacted by those policies.

    Focus and Factoids by Jacob Joshy.


The Research Collective, Programme for Social Action, New Delhi


The Research Collective, Programme for Social Action, New Delhi


Nov, 2017