These great wooden contraptions protrude from their jetties like giant spiders above a web of netting. There are only a few dozen left in the world and they’re all here in Kochi. They were first brought in the 15th century by Chinese traders from the court of Kubla Kahn, probably to impress the Indians with Chinese technological prowess. This method of sustainable fishing is dying out now – just a few of the nets remain and many of them are kept solely as a tourist attraction, with the fishermen earning more from charging tourists to take pictures than from selling fish.
But any fish they do catch are sold in the market stalls on the shore behind, with the profits being split: 30% for the contraption’s owner and the remaining 70% shared among the co-operative of fishermen working the net. Before the 2004 Asian tsunami, each net would catch 25-40 kilos of fish a day; now it’s just 3-5 kilos. The nets work according to the tides, dipping up and down 300-400 times a day at high tide.
On Wednesday, all fishing ceased and the shore was ramjammed with local people who’d come to watch the enormous Queen Mary II liner leaving Kochi port – even the parade ground was emptied of its multiple cricket games. She was worth waiting for: a huge white vessel cruising under British and (temporary) Indian flags. “World’s number-one ship,” one Keralan told us, proud that she’d visited his port. But she travels grubbily, beneath a black cloud of smoke that billows from her gigantic stack. Shipping emissions are not yet included in international carbon-reduction targets, but shipping produces twice as much carbon per year as aviation does. And the industry is also responsible for other nasties including sulphur and soot, which are a health hazard and alter weather patterns.
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