Generations of fishermen in India’s coastal regions have practiced and perfected their craft for years. However, with changing environmental conditions after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and its devastating impact, a new generation of fishermen is using wireless technology to earn their livelihoods in a safer and more profitable manner. The Fisher Friend mobile application provides critical information about weather and ocean conditions up to 100 km (about 62 miles) from shore, including disaster alerts, potential fishing zones (PFZ) and current market prices of fish, helping the fishermen improve their catch and their incomes.
The devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami changed the sea’s conditions, making the fisherfolk’s traditional knowledge obsolete. Fishermen have difficulty judging when it is safe to venture out to sea and sometimes have trouble finding the best places to fish. The International Border Line (IBL) between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka runs through the ocean close to the coast of Tamil Nadu and is not marked, making it possible for fishermen to accidentally cross the line and face penalties under the Sri Lankan law.
Fisher Friend mobile application provides comprehensive information on ocean conditions such as wind speed, wind direction and wave height along with early warning information on disasters like cyclones, high waves and heavy rainfall. Fishermen use this information to determine when it is safe to go to sea and which type of fishing gear they should take with them. The mobile app leverages the smartphone’s GPS feature to map the coordinates of PFZ Advisories, provided by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, and chart a course to the PFZ and then back to their harbor locations. Fishermen use the GPS feature of the mobile application to communicate their location to the coast guard when stranded at sea. The mobile application alerts the fishermen of Tamil Nadu when they’re approaching the international border of Sri Lanka, enabling them to change course and avoid crossing the border. Fishermen also use the mobile application to obtain current market prices, enabling them to negotiate the best price for their catch.
The Fisher Friend program was first started in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and has now scaled to Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. More than 2,000 fishermen of these States have used the mobile application. The Fisher Friend has helped in the rescue of more than 40 fishermen who were caught in bad weather conditions. They used the mobile app to communicate their GPS location to the coast guard. In addition, many fishermen have found fish catches worth over $1,500 by following the PFZ advisories provided through the mobile application. Many have saved their boats and fishing gear by avoiding dangerous sea conditions based on the advisories of wind speeds and wave heights provided by the mobile application.
Possible replication for farmers
The National Council of Applied Economic Research of India, a reputable think-tank and economic research organization, lauded the Indian Federal Ministry of Earth Sciences for the implementation of Fisher Friend in collaboration with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and recommended that a similar program be created for Indian farmers too.