PHUKET: The weather phenomenon known as El Niño may have brought floods, drought and other forms of misery to many people around the world, but not to fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean – they benefited from it with bumper catches. It seems that with the appearance of El Niño last year, fish from all over the world decided to hold a major congress in the Indian Ocean. This drew fishing vessels from countries as far away as France and Spain to try their luck in the area. Pramuan Lagjai, manager of the Phuket Fishing Port at Koh Siray, told the Gazette that the local catch in 1998 totalled 35,472 tons, 2½ times the amount caught in 1997. Unloading the huge catches made the port very congested, and the arrival of fishing vessels from other parts of the world made it more crowded still. But this year, with El Niño over, the fishermen’s harvest is proving less bountiful. As a result there are fewer vessels operating from the port. For example, Mr Pramuan said, while there were 50 fishing vessels from China and Taiwan anchored in the port at this time last year, there are only 30 this year. “We are planning to improve the port facilities,” he said, “and not only to ease future congestion at the port. I’ve been to Denmark and Japan, and seen how the fishing industry can help tourism. I hope to see the same thing happening in Phuket.”
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