Trawling ban divides traditional fishers, boat owners

A trawler venturing into the sea from the Kollam coast.

A trawler venturing into the sea from the Kollam coast. | Photo Credit: File photo

Traditional fishers and trawl boat owners are once again split over the imposition of the 52-day annual trawling ban off the Kerala coast.

The Fisheries department has convened a meeting of all stakeholders in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday to discuss issues confronting the fisheries sector as well as to consider the ban.

“The fisheries sector has been going through continuous crises over these years, and strict conservation measures are needed to ensure a stable future for the community of fishers,” said Antony Kurisinkal, the Alappuzha district secretary of the Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation.

He said the federation was for a 90-day ban and would hold protests in all districts depending on the decision being taken by the Fisheries department after Friday’s meeting.

Antony Ashrayam, a traditional fisherman from Arthunkal, Alappuzha, said the very intention of trawling ban was to conserve resources, which would benefit both trawl boat owners as well as traditional fishers. It is, therefore, meaningless that the trawl boat owners are opposing the annual ban, he said.

Destructive fishing

Jackson Pollayil of the federation said even trawl boat owners were facing shortage of resources, and some operators were also resorting to destructive practices like pair or bull trawling. They deploy boats in pairs and scrap the sea bed with fishing nets killing even juvenile fish.

Fishing Boat Operators’ Association secretary Joseph Kalapurackal said considering the serious loss of fishing days on account of restrictions during COVID-19 and on account of weather warnings in 2021, trawling ban may be reconsidered at least for the upcoming season.

Pollution woes

He claimed that fish resources had been affected not so much by overfishing but by pollution of waterbodies, including the backwaters. He claimed that the depth of the Vembanad lake, one of the seats of key fish resources in central Kerala, had come down from 9.6 metres on an average to 1.3 metres with the accumulation of silt and polluting materials like plastic.

He said the government and the marine scientist community should study the situation to reconsider the annual trawling ban. He said Indian fishers were losing precious resources on account of the ban, while foreign operators exploited these assets.

Trawling ban has been in effect since 1982 for varying periods in the State, while the Union government has imposed a uniform ban on other coastal States. The ban period is between June 1 and July 31 on the west coast and between April 15 and June 15 on the east coast.

It is estimated that there are 38,000 trawling boats operating off the coast of Kerala, which will come under the ban during the monsoon season. There are also more than 14,300 traditional fishing boats that have been given permits for receiving subsidised kerosene.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2022 1:40:56 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/trawling-ban-divides-traditional-fishers-boat-owners/article65459807.ece