Fishermen struggle for livelihoods in Sri Lanka

STORY: As the sun rose in Sri Lanka, a handful of fishermen geared up for another day at sea off the island of Mannar.

They are the lucky few.

Many of the other fishermen in their community can't set sail at all -

-victims of the worst economic crisis Sri Lanka has faced since independence in 1948.

The kerosene oil they use to run their boats is scarce... fuel shortages are extreme across the country, and coupled with soaring inflation, their livelihood is under threat.

Seventy-three year old Soosaipillai Nicholas, who goes by Sornam, paints a dire picture.

"Everything is difficult at the moment — there's no kerosene, there's no food at home. We only get work if we come to the sea, otherwise we don't get any. We're starving. Because of that, things are hard, my situation is really tough. I can't do anything."

Sornam’s earnings have plummeted – he now takes only half of what he used to, now only 70 cents a day...

That doesn’t go far with food inflation at a whopping 94%.

Raja Cruz, head of a village fishing committee, said they had asked the government for kerosene several times - but had received next to nothing.

"We don't need luxury goods like petrol and diesel. For our essential work, all we need is kerosene. So please give us this kerosene. Approximately two-thirds of Mannar is made up of fishermen, and their livelihood is fishing. They rely on fish to survive. But continuously for the last three months, there's been no fishing and so people are really struggling. So many poverty-stricken families have been forced to leave and go to India because of this. So we've told all this to the government so many times, but we still haven't been given anything."

As the sun sets and the boats come back in -

- more than one was rowed back to shore, to save on fuel.

Several fisherman without their own boats - jump on and join others as they can,

hoping for a small share of the profit to survive.