Kolis, the fishermen, are found in all coastal states like Gujarat, Maharashtra. It has various subtypes such as Son Koli, Macchimar Koli, Christian Koli, Vaiti Koli, and Mangela Koli are fishermen by profession located across India. Fishing is their prime occupation and means of survival. They are along the North Konkan coast from Vasai, near Mumbai city to Ratnagiri district in south Maharashtra among subtypes known as Dhor-Koli, Mahadev-Koli, Malhar Koli. In Maharashtra, they can be classified into two distinct categories. The one who is into fishing and the other who are into agriculture. The Sonkoli are economically better-off and culturally progressive and that is the reason they are not classified into the scheduled tribes like the Dhor-Koli, Mahadev-Koli, Malhar Koli. Sonkoli-s are primarily found in the coastal region, while the remaining are usually inhabitants of the mountainous region.
Generations of these Koli-s have been in this fishing occupation as their profession along the coastal belt of Maharashtra, stretching from Palghar up to Terekhol, the southern tip of coastal Maharashtra, with very distinctive customs, social, religious and cultural lifestyles. Festivals, folk dances and beliefs are part of the culture of fishermen. The main festivals celebrated by the fisherfolks are Ram-Navami, Narali Purnima, Gokulashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Dasara, Mahashivratri and Holi. The festival of Narali Purnima holds pride of place during the festival season.
During the recent past, there has been rapid commercialization of fishing and related businesses and have resulted in several and severe challenges being posed for their survival. Today this technique of fishing, “Dol” has been replaced by commercial fishing using highly mechanised trawlers. Only commercial fishing companies use trawlers, as the cost of procurement is not affordable by the local fishing communities. The uncontrolled fishing by these trawlers has led to depletion in fish breeding. In addition to this, the traditional fishing season periods are not normally honoured by the commercial fishing companies and thereby further depleting the catch as they encroach in the fish breeding seasons. During the monsoon season, between June and August, fishermen stop going out to sea as their small boats because of the high tide and turbulent sea.
Unless there is some intervention by the state government in these issues mentioned above, the future for this aboriginal community is bleak. Since the community has been practising this trade from the hunting and gathering stage of human existence and as fishing is considered one such profession of hunting and gathering, there should be some protectionist measures to preserve nature and the community.