Ban likely in October-November, mechanised boat owners say

This year’s annual 47-day ban on mechanised fishing (trawling) ended on July 31 with some indications of a possibility that the trawl ban from next year will be during a different period, probably October-November.

The mechanised fishing sector has already made it clear that such a change would be welcomed even if it means an increase in the number of days the ban will be in force. A shift in the trawl ban period is already a talking point and it gained momentum at the Shakthikulangara-Neendakara twin fishing harbours here on Thursday as mechanised boats began returning with poor karikkadi harvest on the first day of fishing after the end of this year’s trawl ban. A draft report by an expert committee of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) on the impact of the annual trawl ban on the Kerala waters over the years was submitted recently to the government. It is looked upon by the mechanised fishing sector as an indication that the trawl ban period would be shifted to some other period of the year.

Mechanised fishing boat owners say that, in sharp contrast to the situation during the past 25 years, the government is now not averse to discussing and considering such a shift. In fact, there are feelers that the issue will be taken up for serious talks with all sections concerned by the end of this year itself, boat owners say.

It is on the basis of such a hope that the mechanised fishing sector toned down their strong stand against opening the Neendakara harbour to the traditional fishing sector during the trawl ban period from this year. The mechanised fishing sector expects a shift in trawl ban period from next year as quid pro quo for that gesture, boat owners say.

They say that so far it has not been scientifically established whether the trawl ban during June-July does contribute to conserving and augmenting marine wealth in the Kerala waters. Out of the 11 commissions that studied the issue, it was only the Balakrishnan Nair Commission (1987), which recommended a trawl ban during June-July.

The boat owners, meanwhile, insist that the government enforce a strict ban on all forms of destructive fishing by a section under the label of “so-called traditional fishing.” This section use in-board engine boats locally called ‘kappalvallam’ and the fishing methods are totally mechanised. The nets used by fishermen operating such boat had long been banned. There are a huge number of such boats operating in the Kerala waters and these have not been covered by the trawl ban. The mechanised fishing sector expects that this issue will also be addressed by the government before the time for next year’s trawl ban. They argue that such boats permitted to operate during the trawl ban defeats its very purpose. The annual trawl ban has been in force for the past 25 years during June-July. Right from the start, the mechanised fishing sector had opposed and registered strong protests against enforcing the ban during June-July. They contend that the monsoon-time ban had completely denied them the opportunity to harvest the prized export-oriented karikkadi shrimp, a major profit earner.

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