Special Correspondent

CMFRI scientist warns of alarmingly dwindling marine fish stock

‘Time to realise importance of responsible fishing’

‘Self-imposed regulation better than State control’

Thiruvananthapuram: Destructive fishing methods have led to dwindling fish stock, posing a threat to the marine ecosystem and endangering the livelihood of fish workers. Responsible fishing, focussing on participatory regulation, holds the key to sustainability of the sector, according to N.G.K. Pillai, a scientist of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kochi.

In a paper presented at a seminar organised here recently in connection with the silver jubilee of Matsyafed, Mr. Pillai advocated a precautionary approach to prevent over-exploitation of marine resources. “Participatory regulation involving all stakeholders is a better option than technological solutions,” he said.

Flawed methods

Outlining the major problems faced by fishermen in the State, Dr. Pillai said, “Uncontrolled fishing in the deep sea and near-shore areas and use of dynamite and trawl nets and ring nets have depleted fish stocks and impacted on the complex marine ecosystem. Failure to enforce zonal regulations leads to encroachments into marked fishing areas, resulting in tension between groups of fishermen.”

He observed that rapacious middlemen were fleecing fishworkers, denying them fair price for their catch. Terrorists posed another grave threat to the livelihood of fishermen, he said.

“The depletion of fish stocks is a major topic of discussion the world over. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 52 per cent of fish resources are over exploited, while 28 per cent are exposed to other threats.”

‘Trawling ban works’

Mr. Pillai highlighted the need to promote the concept of responsible fishing among fishermen in the country. “Studies have shown that the annual trawling ban in June-July imposed since 1988 has succeeded in restoring fish stocks. Those in the fishing sector should realise that it is their responsibility to preserve resources. A self- imposed regulation is better than government control.”

Citing studies, he said that use of trawl nets had been on the decline. “Of the 29,177 fishing vessels in Kerala, 5,504 are motorised. As many as 3,982 vessels are trawlers. Motorised craft account for 52 per cent of the total catch.”

Mr. Pillai said the competition among fishermen and the increase in the number of fishing vessels had placed immense pressure on the near-shore marine resources in Kerala. “Some of the commercially important species have been fished almost to extinction,” he said.

He stressed the need to control the use of ring seine nets that trap fingerlings in large numbers.