The Koli community in Mumbai-which has been practising fishing for centuries-has experienced rapid changes over the last few decades, in the forms of increased mechanization, export of fish to global markets, and the pressure of urbanization on their living and work spaces. The capitalist transformation in fishing has altered what was once a caste-based practice to one that brought to it investors from outside the community, migrant workers, and ecological degradation. The resultant loss of revenue, jobs, and catch for artisanal fishers has led to movements demanding fishing rights to be granted to traditional fisher communities alone and for a return to older fishing practices. This call found resonance with populist politics in the city: Koli women organized themselves to stridently resist the entry of migrant men into the sector and Koli men-particularly the young-became inclined to move out of the practice of fishing.
Through an examination of the lives and struggles of fishers in one of India's wealthiest cities, this book looks at how contestations around livelihoods map out in the shadow of significant encounters between capitalism and ecology.