Combined with increasing human intervention, destructive fishing methods are taking a heavy toll on fisheries resources in the Vembanad Lake, which continues to support about 60 per cent of the active inland fishermen in the State.
A senior official of the Department of Fisheries said on Thursday that practices such as the use of adakkamkolli , which roughly translates into ‘kill-all’ nets and virtual bottom trawling using small mesh nets were destroying juveniles in sizeable quantities that the future of varieties such as pearlspots (karimeen) was seriously threatened.
The official said fish varieties such as pearlspots lay eggs at the bottom of the lake, making them particularly vulnerable to use of nets that sweep the bottom.
Though these practices appeared confined to southern reaches of the Vembanadu Lake beyond the Thanneermukkam bund, some destructive practices have crept in with people near Kochi resorting to practices such as laying of padal or secured artificial shelters that trap both adults and juveniles.
Ettamkettu or trapping of fish in the landward side during high tides had been detected in some places close to Kochi, sources in the fisheries department said. They said use of small mesh nets and sweeping of the bottom added to the turbidity, affecting fish population.
A combined operation by Fisheries Department officials from Ernakulam, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Kollam districts on Wednesday detected these operations but the officials were not able to seize the boats or fishing gears as the operators were far out in the backwaters.
The department official said future operations would be with the help of speedboats as many of the fishermen use mechanised boats and escape detection.‘Big tragedy’
K.S. Purushan, Professor at Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, said that a widespread campaign was needed to end these practices that had turned into a big “tragedy” for the fisheries sector. Reports on the Vembanad ecosystem had pointed out that electrocution, poisoning and use of explosives were common in the Vembanad Lake, which is home to 150 species of fishes.
Charles George of Kerala Matsyathozhilali Aikya Vedi said the Vembanad Lake also acted as the nursery for several fish and shrimp varieties and alleged that several calls to the authorities to take stringent action to protect the Ramsar site had not been heeded to.