Union Minister of State for Environment Prakash Javadekar on Friday announced that the Clam Governing Council of Ashtamudi lake in Kerala was the first Marine Stewardship Council-certified fishery in India.
Speaking at a press conference, he said that the fisherfolk decided to go in for sustainable activities after they extracted over 10,000 tonne clams from the lake, reducing its capacity over the years. This was the first such certification for India, he pointed out.
The Ashtamudi Estuary showcases to the world that development and environment protection go hand in hand and participatory approach at the local level in managing biodiversity is an important aspect of it, an official statement said. This achievement also opens up the scope for other fisheries in India to work towards MSC certification, which would enhance conservation and sustainability of the resource, while providing greater economic returns. The MSC is an international non-profit organisation set up to help transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis. The MSC runs the only certification and eco-labeling programme for wild-capture fisheries. Ashtamudi short neck clam fishery is only the third fishery in Asia to have received the recognition, the statement added.
Ashtamudi lake, a Ramsar wetland of international importance, is the second largest estuarine system in Kerala and the clam fishery began in 1981. It supports the livelihoods of around 3000 fisherfolk involved in collection, cleaning processing and trading clams. The growth of Ashtamudi’s commercial fishery was driven by demand from Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia in the 1980s and the 1990s. By 1991, the catch peaked at 10,000 tonne a year, but declined by 50 per cent in 1993 due to overfishing.
Faced with the prospect of dwindling catch, the community decided to restrict fishing and impose mesh size restrictions for nets, along with a minimum export size and a prohibition on mechanical clam fishing, the official statement added. These measures showed immediate effects, and clam fishery has sustained landings of around 10,000 tonne a year for the past decade.