‘Gagan’ to be guiding star for fishermen at high sea

Representative image.

Fishermen can now get official advisories on upcoming disasters and potential fishing zones while at sea, thanks to an Indian innovation.

Using the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Gagan (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation) satellite system, scientists at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, Hyderabad has now come out with a solution to alert fishermen on the high seas.

Previously fishermen could access such advisories and forecasts only when they were close to the coast. Once they moved away from the shore beyond 10-12 km (typical ranges of mobile phones and VHF) there was no way to reach out to them.

This remained a limitation in disseminating information to fishermen who often venture out to the sea beyond 50 nautical miles and sometimes even up to 300 nautical miles looking for the big catch.

The drawback was severely felt during the 2017 Ockhi cyclone, when fishermen went out for deep sea fishing much before the cyclone and could not be informed about the developing storm. The communication gap resulted in loss of life, serious injuries to those rescued and severe damages to fishing boats and fishing gear.

In order to ensure that such a thing is not repeated in future, INCOIS scientists using three Isro satellites in the Gagan (GSAT-8, GSAT-10 and GSAT-15) have created a new alert system in which the fishermen would have to carry a low-cost instrument - manufactured by Bengaluru-based private firm Acord – that would receive information on potential fishing zones, ocean state forecast and the developing cyclones in the high seas.

 Since Gagan has its footprint across the Indian Ocean, fishermen venturing out in the deep can also be informed with such a paging system.

Each of the access device costs Rs 9,000, but officials said the prices would come down to about Rs 7,000 with commercial production.

 “PFZ advisories have become part of the value chain of the fishing community, over 6 lakh fishermen are regularly accessing advisories directly through their mobiles to avoid the wastage of time for searching shoals of fish,” Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan said here on Wednesday after launching the new system.

The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences that spearheaded the initiative has proposed to the fisheries department to subsidise 70% of the device cost and suggested that states can also subsidise 20% of the price, leaving the fishermen to pay only 10%.

Among other things, the device can also be used to inform the fishermen about the best price of their catch at the nearest landing point, saving time and resources for them.

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