Science

Dire times for coastal fisheries?

A traditional kattumaram and a fisherman.

A traditional kattumaram and a fisherman.  

Illegal fishing gear, violations of existing regulations common

The fishing industry along a portion of India’s east coast could be on the brink of a collapse. This dire warning comes as scientists find that fisheries in coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry use destructive methods and do not comply with existing regulations, which could stress the already over-exploited fish resources here.

Regulations are crucial in India, the world's second largest fish producer, where large scale motorisation of traditional fishing crafts began since the 1950s. Different categories of crafts – traditional catamarans, fibreglass boats, trawlers – have specifications, from the fishing gear they should employ to the distance they should head out into the sea. But are these rules followed?

GPS data

To generate baseline information on who fishes where in the sea, scientists from the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning mapped and quantified fish catch, fishing gear, craft and crew details along 120 kilometres of the coasts of Puducherry, Villupuram and Cuddalore districts of Tamil Nadu. They attached global positioning systems to vessels; these, as well as field teams gathered information of over 3,427 fishing trips over 7,945 square kilometres of fishing grounds between June 2012 and June 2013. Their results, published in PLOS ONE on July 11 this year, reveal that there are distinct high-pressure fishing zones and overlapping fishing territories between traditional, motorised and mechanised crafts. Violations of the Marine Fisheries Regulations Act (including not adhering to fishing limits and using illegal fishing gear) are also frequent. The team also presented these results to the fishing community leaders of each village.

“We wanted to initiate discussions among the fishing communities regarding their role in fisheries management, for they adhere to decisions made by their community leaders,” said Tara Lawrence, lead author of the study.

Some of the recommendations made by these communities are listed in the study – such as suggesting that boats stick to their nautical mile limits – and can be achieved with enforcement and could potentially help the marine ecosystem recover, she adds.

According to marine biologist Divya Karnad who was not involved in this study, this work is a critical contribution to the study of small-scale fisheries in India. However, the data is a bit dated; since fisheries are ever-changing, comparisons with the present could offer better insight into change and adaptation in these fisheries, she wrote in an email.

“We need many more such systematic studies that collect long-term data,” she added.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 29, 2020 8:26:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/dire-times-for-coastal-fisheries/article24603690.ece

Next Story