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Happy tidings for fish workers

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Good season ahead: Washing down of nutrients in the rain is expected to spur fish productivity.
Good season ahead: Washing down of nutrients in the rain is expected to spur fish productivity.

K.P.M. Basheer

KOCHI: The untimely summer rain, which has so far caused an estimated Rs.110-crore loss in damaged crops and claimed 12 lives, is likely to turn out to be a blessing in disguise for fish workers.

The rain that brought havoc on rice, pepper, coffee and areca crops seems to be benevolent to marine fisheries. Fish workers and fisheries scientists say the unexpected rain will bring in its wake a rush of fish — especially pelagic fish such as sardine, mackerel and anchovy — to the net.

Already, there has been a bumper harvest of pelagic fish over the past month. This was the biggest catch in the lean January-May season in a decade, fish workers said. They hope the rainfall in the past ten days, which is six times the normal summer rainfall, will bring in additional harvest.

Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) Director N.G.K. Pillai, an expert on pelagic fish, said the current trend of increased harvest might continue for the next two months.

This was because of the increased fish productivity spurred by the availability of nutrients. Rain washes off phytoplankton and zoo plankton into the rivers which carry them to the sea and feed the fish larvae, he pointed out.

“The productivity of fishes is directly linked to the availability of nutrients to the fish larvae at their growing stages,” Dr. Pillai noted. “The unexpected heavy rain has washed a heavy nutrient load into the sea,” he added.

In river-rich Kerala, a large number of water bodies merge with the Arabian Sea. Through the Kochi bar mouth alone, seven rivers — called Seven Sisters that include the Periyar, Pampa and Chalakkudy rivers — end up in the sea.

During the southwest monsoon, which is critical for the growth of marine fisheries resources in the State, there is an up-welling of nutrients from under the sea, thus providing sufficient food to the fish larvae.

The Karnataka-Kerala coast down to Kanyakumari, which fisheries scientists call the Malabar Upwelling Zone, is rich with fish because of the abundant nutrient supply during the monsoon. Dr. Pillai thinks that the current heavy rain will help to marginally increase the total fish production of the country this year.

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