‘Fisheries crisis will hurt livelihood of 15 million’
Jun 11, 2012
An old-time fisherman, Ahmed Kaka, 63, from Luni village off the Kutch coast of Gujarat, complains that several species of fish have disappeared.
“Earlier, we would capture 129 different species, including large pomfret and octopus, but today, these have all vanished,” said Mr Kaka.
Mr Kaka’s views are shared by 15 million people living along India’s coastline whose livelihood depends on the fishing industry.
Mataanhy Saldanha, chairman of the National Fishworkers Forum, warns against the falling size of the mackerel being caught today.
“Not only is the mackerel size getting smaller but trawlers are catching mackerel with eggs which means there is no chance for them to reproduce. Rejuvenation of fish is not happening as trawlers fish even during the breeding season.”
In the southern states, large quantities of juveniles fishes are being caught and discarded since they have no commercial value. The economic loss of the juvenile fish by a single trawler in Kerala coast has been estimated at `28 lakhs.
A Greenpeace report titled “Safeguard or Squander? Deciding the future of India’s Fisheries” warns that 90 per cent of India’s fish resources have reached above maximum sustainable levels of exploitation. These findings contradict the ministry of commerce projections that marine exports will be raised from $4 billion to $6 billion by 2015.
The working group of the Planning Commission has also expressed apprehension that export growth of marine capture fisheries has stagnated since the early 2000s with growth being sustained due to the aquaculture sector.
The report quotes data from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute which shows that the average landings of white fish, ribbon fish, thread fins, flat fishes, elasmobrachs and mullets are declining while flying fishes and unicorn cod fall in the depleted bracket.
Mr Saldanha insists unrestricted use of trawlers and mechanised purse seine poses the biggest threat . The current deep sea fishing policy which overlooks foreign vessels holding dual registrations has added to the problem because while local Indian tuna vessels are between 15 and 19m. in length and have up to 400 hooks, the Taiwanese vessels are 55m long and operate with 4,000 hooks.
Another danger is posed by India’s deep sea resources whose biological characteristics that create specific challenges for the sustainable utilisation of fishing.