Fishing Communities

Small-scale and traditional fishing communities face peril worldwide due to a host of factors including large-scale fishing, environmental degradation, and climate change. India is no exception and neither is West Bengal. Keenly aware of these problems, from DISHA we have been working in the small-scale fisheries sector comprising of fishers, fish farmers, fish vendors, fish sorters and dryers, and other ancillary workers since the advent of the new millennium. Through a host of activities, we continue to work closely with the fishing community both in terms of awareness generation and capacity building. 


  • Since 2002-03, we have been working towards the empowerment of the coastal and marine fishing communities of South Bengal. During that period, we worked extensively on the issue of livelihood-security of the fishworkers at the Jambudwip estuarine island of West Bengal.  Since 2004, we have been working on the issues faced by fishworkers in the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve owing to unsustainable anthropogenic activities. 

  • With a focus on developing livelihood security among the fishing community, we campaign continuously to safeguard their tenureship rights over local waterbodies on which they have traditionally depended for their livelihoods, and their right to preferential access to fish resources. For instance, we have provided assistance to local fishworkers’ groups of the Sundarbans in campaigning for reforms in the Boat License Certificates system, which is directly connected to the question of livelihood security of the small-scale and marginalised fishers of the Sundarbans. 

  • In 2006, we organised a two days residential workshop with the representatives of coastal and estuarine fishermen in West Bengal on the theme: Environmental & Livelihood Concerns Of Coastal Fishing. In the same year, we also organised a three-day inter-state workshop and training programme with representatives of fisher peoples’ organisations of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal and a one-day ground-level interface on the theme: Traditional Marine Fishing – Problems and Prospects with the participation of local concerned citizens and members of the fishing community. We continue to organise such programs and activities every year with the active involvement of small-scale fishworkers (SSF-s) and aimed at their community-based empowerment. 

  • In 2008, we had, in collaboration with the Centre for Education and Communication, Delhi, and the National Fishworkers’ Forum, organised seminars on the ‘ILO convention on the work in fishing’ for the coastal fishworkers of India in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Orissa, and West Bengal. 

  • We have also conducted several ground-level studies and have published our findings on the issues faced by the SSF-s. In 2005, 2009, and 2014, we conducted and collaborated on three distinct studies on the issues faced by the SSF-s of the Sundarbans to explore sustainable solutions. In 2007, we conducted a study on the rights of the small-scale coastal fishing communities vis-à-vis fisheries management perspectives in the Purba Medinipur coast of West Bengal. In 2016, we conducted a study on the theme: Business Prospects of Cooperatives of Small-Scale Marine Fishers in West Bengal. One of our latest studies, published in 2021, is on the impact of Hilsa Conservation on the fishing communities of south Bengal.

  • Over the years, we worked on the issue of provision of relief, recompense, and insurance to dependents of fishers who have passed away or faced severe injury in the course and scope of carrying out their livelihoods: be it through boat capsizing or tiger attack. We have coordinated with the authorities concerned and have also worked towards livelihood support and capacity-building at the ground level in this regard.  

  • We have also worked for disaster relief among fishing communities whose lives and livelihoods are harmed by adverse climate events such as natural disasters like the Aila and the Amphan cyclones of 2009 and 2020 respectively. 

  • The Coronavirus pandemic and the consequent lockdowns impacted the livelihood of many SSF-s throughout West Bengal in 2020-21. During that time, we distributed relief in the districts of South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Kolkata, Purba Medinipur, Paschim Medinipur, Jhargram, Howrah, Nadia, Murshidabad, and Jalpaiguri. Some amounts of relief were also distributed in Coochbehar and Bankura. A comprehensive report of our Covid and Amphan relief work can be found here. 

  • Over the years, our work has touched upon the lives of 18,000+ fishworkers from all over India. We do not stand alone in our efforts to ensure better livelihood conditions for the fishing communities. We have and continue to work with various international and national level platforms and organisations, as well as with various ground-level and community-based collectives and groups of fishworkers from 18 districts in West Bengal.