Issue of retrenchment of workers at centre of debate on ban
Nearly 5,000 mechanised fishing vessels — 3,678 according to data from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) — will stay put on the State’s coast from Friday midnight as the annual 47-day trawling ban comes into effect, considerably reducing fish landings and triggering yet another round of debate on the effectiveness of the virtual fishing holiday and its social consequences.
The issue of temporary retrenchment of workers during the otherwise lean and difficult months of June and July has been at the centre of the debate.
Trawling ban is imposed with a view to protect major fish resources such as oil sardines during their breeding season. Catching the fish during its egg-laying season results in substantial reduction in catch in six to eight months.
The trawling ban was first imposed in 1988 on a recommendation by the Balakrishnan Nair Committee.
Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikyavedi, representing the traditional sector which accounts for around 10,000 boats with outboard engines and around 600 boats with inboard engines, described the ban as the first step towards fishing sustainability. Its convenor Charles George said the government had made arrangements to supply free provisions to fishermen affected by the ban. He said fishermen with mechanised trawlers usually switch jobs to operating traditional vessels, thereby solving the problem of unemployment to a large extent.
However, Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal, general secretary of Mechanised Boat Owners’ Association, said claims of rising fish landings on account of the fishing ban during monsoon were patently false.
With the use of powerful boat engines and bigger nets, the methods of fishing had changed substantially since 1988, thereby increasing fish landings.
The size of vessels going out to fish in the Arabian Sea had increased from 10 metres in 1988 to 20 metres now; the power of the engines had gone up to 600 HP and the size of the nets had gone up from 90 kg to 500 kg, he said.
Mr. Kalappurakkal described as ‘childish’ the recommendation of an expert committee headed by fisheries scientist K. Sunil Muhammed that the trawling ban period be extended to 75 days from the current 47 days.
The ban meant that the State missed out on a great resource such as Karikkadi shrimp (Parapenaeopsis stylifera) that is abundantly available in the sea off Kerala during the monsoon season. The trawl ban only helped large foreign trawlers, which illegally entered Indian waters during the season, he said.
CMFRI director G. Syda Rao said the 47-day ban was enough and the national level committee had recommended in 2009-10 that the east and west coasts of India impose these bans for 45 and 47 days respectively. The decision to recommend the trawling ban was taken after wide-based consultations spread over a year, said Dr. Rao.