The Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) has said the import of powerful Chinese inboard engines for sea going vessels will lead to unsustainable exploitation of fish stocks.

A press release quoting KSMTF State president T. Peter and secretary Anto Elias said the arrival of about 500 Chinese engines had led to a crisis in the fisheries sector, threatening to affect the livelihood of fish workers.

“There are over 5,000 trawlers, 13,000 fishing boats fitted with outboard engines and 500 with inboard engines, in addition to 7,000 catamarans and 5,000 other types of fishing vessels operating from Kerala. It is estimated that the existing fleet itself is responsible for over exploitation of fish stocks. The import of Chinese inboard engines capable of generating 240 to 440 horsepower will worsen the situation,” they said.

The federation said the engines were capable of trawling the sea from the bottom to the surface, at a speed of 2.5 to 4.5 nautical miles, while other boats trawl the bottom at a speed of less than 2.5 nautical miles. The high powered engines, it said, would enable the vessels to carry out mid-water trawling and pelagic (surface) trawling as well. The leaders said such saturation trawling would have disastrous consequences for traditional fish workers.

The federation urged the Centre and State governments for strict regulations on the operation of boats equipped with imported high powered Chinese engines.