Kerala

Drive to protect fish-breeding habitats

Environmentalists removing a huge bag net kept in a rivulet in Kottayam.

Environmentalists removing a huge bag net kept in a rivulet in Kottayam.  

‘Ootha pidutham’ during monsoon season to adversely affect fish wealth

Standing in waist-deep water and braving strong local resistance, they are on a mission to conserve the life forms that are on the move to feed and breed.

Ever since the skies over Kottayam have turned overcast this monsoon, an army of environmentalists supported by the Fisheries and the Police departments have enclosed the interminable network of rivulets connecting the Meenachil river to protect the breeding habitats of local fish varieties.

The drive, initiated during the breeding season of aqua species, has unearthed several forms destructive, illegal, and non-discriminate fishing practices including extensive use of electro-fishing and bag nets, which contribute to habitat destruction and over-fishing.

Poaching

According to S. Jayasree, Deputy Director of Fisheries, Kottayam, the drive followed several complaints against this poaching activity. Action was being initiated under the provisions of the Inland Fisheries Act with the support of the local police concerned.

She pointed to the instance in which the officials unearthed the operation of ‘a poaching mafia’, which operated using a 30-metre wide net in the Kattachirathodu, a major tributary of the Meenachil river.

“Preliminary investigations suggested that they used to catch up to1,000 kg of egg-bearing fish everyday since the onset of the monsoon. Assisted by the local police, we deployed heavy machines to cut down those poles amidst strong local opposition,” the official said.

If the practice was allowed to continue, there would be clear drop in the fish wealth of the entire wetland system including the Vembanadu Lake and the Meenachil river, she added.

Survey

Taking a serious note of the issue, the Meenachil-Minathara-Kodoor River Linking initiative has launched a survey across the region to identify the hotspots of predatory fishing.

At one of these locations, the entire rivulet was found to have been diverted to a private property where indiscriminate fishing had been taking place using a block chain-operated net.

“All the rivulets that drain out to the Meenachil river — be it the Kattachira or the Pannagam or the Plalam canals, have become hotbeds of this practice — known as ‘ootha pidutham’ in local parlance. Similarly, the six temporary bunds built across the Meenachil river to prevent incursion of saline water from the Vembanadu Lake also double up as sites of ‘Ootha’ during the rains,” said K. Anil Kumar, coordinator, river linking initiative.

The environmentalists have also called for effective implementation of a report by the Kerala State Biobiversity Board that suggested seeking conservation of the inland fish varieties during the breeding season.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 3:09:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/drive-to-protect-fish-breeding-habitats/article28236323.ece

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