Clam collectors a worried lot

Yellow Clam being collected at Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam.  

With the stock hitting an all-time low, clam collectors of Ashtamudi were a worried lot in 2019. The year 2020 offered no solace, but by then they could identify some visible changes in the estuarine ecosystem.

And today, their worst fears have come true as the fluctuations in hydrographic parameters have affected the spawning season of yellow clams (Paphia malabarica). Normally, the annual three-month ban on harvest begins in December, but inconsistent salinity and surface temperature has forced the Fisheries Department to push it to January.

“In earlier times we could spot huge numbers of pea-sized bivalves during November-December. But this year we stopped collecting clams some two months ago as there was hardly any stock left. The clam collectors and women engaged in allied activities have been in total distress after the floods of 2018. Everything including the depth and current has changed over the years due to unscientific interventions and climate change. At present we have hit the rock bottom,” says Prasannan, clam collector.

The decision to move the ban has been taken by the Clam Governing Council that manages the Marine Stewardship Council-certified fishery.

“For the last three years we are experiencing a change in the intensity and pattern of rain. Usually the waterbody will achieve the salinity level required for spawning by November, but this year the situation is different. It's for the first time we are changing the ban period,” says K.Suhair, Deputy Director, Fisheries Department.

As part of efforts to replenish the stock and protect the livelihood of clam collectors, the Fisheries Department had set up sanctuaries in Ashtamudi and at present there is no seed to carry out relaying or collect the broodstock.

“Whether the ban should be pushed permanently to January or February will be decided after further studies by various expert bodies including the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI),” Mr. Suhair says.

Apart from erratic rain and freshwater influx, sedimentation is also posing a huge challenge to the larval settlement.

“Right now our clam beds are nearly empty. After the ban ends in April, the stocks may get replenished due to the long six-month window. The Fisheries Department has also promised to procure seeds from Vizhinjam hatchery and relay them in Ashtamudi. At present we are pinning our hopes on that,” adds Prasannan.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 4:03:59 PM |

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