This is a picture of a sophisticated set-up for catching fish in the peak seasons of monsoon, on Vypin beach. Apart from their native land China, they are found only in Kerala and nowhere else in the world. Although the nets are of Chinese origin, the whole system assembled together is of Portugese ingenuity. Locally known as 'Cheena Vala', they are thought to be brought to India sometime during the Portugese occupation of Cochin from Early 16th to Mid-17th centuries.
The 10m high mechanism consists of a framework of bamboo & teak poles, with cantilevered nets that are lowered into the water during particular tides. Huge stones suspended from ropes hang at the apex of the poles; the role of these stones is to act as counterweights. The accuracy of the system is such that the weight of one or two men walking along the beam from which the net is suspended is enough to dip it into the sea. Each net, when lowered into the water, spreads out to about 20m in width; it is lifted out of the water after a short while by pulling the suspended stones on the other side. This requires a man power of at least 6 men.
The costs for such an installation are high & not every fisherman can afford it. This initial investment pays off well in the long term as generous catch & its freshness contribute to almost instant sell-out. Due to the cyclone Okchi, many of the original 24 nets were destroyed. Although one may see a number of these on the coast, only a handful are authentic 'Chinese fishing nets'; the rest are modest replicas made by locals based on the prototypical model.
For a better understanding of the working model, one can check out the link below - even if the catch is not much, it effectively conveys the details :
Video in the link is property of MithunOnThe.Net
A couple of tips for anyone visiting,
- The beach is quite littered, so do be careful
- Views of sunrise & sunset are spectacular; best to visit at dawn
- Proximity of cargo port means tons of ships sailing by (and plenty of good photo opportunities ;-D)
- The fishermen might allow tourists to help with casting the nets, but they will charge a price
- Enjoy the seafood!