Chakara rekindles hope for fishers

July 16, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 04:09 am IST - ALAPPUZHA

Sardines, mackerel, and other fish varieties are received in abundance on Alappuzha coast

A scene from the Galilea beach at Paravur in Alappuzha.

A scene from the Galilea beach at Paravur in Alappuzha.

The appearance of mudbank, called Chakara in local parlance, on the Alappuzha coast has drawn scores of fishermen to the locality. The phenomenon has given hopes to local fishermen who have been faced with poor catch during the ongoing trawl ban period.

Sardines, mackerel, and other fish varieties are received in abundance during the Chakara season. The June-July months have had witnessed Chakara in a number of locations along the Kerala coast in the past. It used to be a season of high expectations for the fishermen as the catch had been prolonged and widespread across the coastal stretch. Mudbanks have appeared belatedly at fewer locations for shorter periods in recent years.

One of the significant aspects of the phenomenon is that the fishermen are unable to cash in on the bounty owing to the involvement of middlemen.

Lack of cold storages in the public sector has forced the fishermen to sell the catch at lower prices.

“The government machinery has failed to lend a helping hand to market the catch. Middlemen will continue to exploit the fishermen unless the cooperative movement in the fisheries sector is strengthened,” said V. Dinakaran, former chairman, Matsyafed. “Matsyafed has cold storages only in Kollam and Thoppumpady. The catch in Alappuzha during the Chakara season is bought in bulk by traders from places such as Kottayam and Changanaserry. The fishermen are forced to sell the catch at lower prices in the absence of adequate storage facilities or marketing support from government.

Nevertheless, the dishes made of fish are available at high prices in hotels,’’ he said. In fact, several groups of fishermen have started direct selling of their catch at various spots on the Alappuzha-Aroor route along the national highway. Probably, it is a better option to get fair prices.

Dwindled catch

Over the years, mudbanks had been limited to a few locations and the catch too had dwindled. Many reasons, including climate change and indiscriminate fishing by vessels from foreign countries in the outer sea, have been cited as the cause of the lower catch.

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), in a study, has pointed out overexploitation in the past as one of the key reasons behind reduced catch. Based on 2005 to 2007 data, the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of sardine along Kerala coast is 2.3 lakh tonnes, according to its study. During the period 2011 and 2012, the stock was fished above the MSY by harvesting nearly 2.5 lakh tonnes.

Excessive harvesting

Excessive harvesting of juveniles (less than 10 cm) in preceding years could have affected the spawning biomass in recent years, the study said.

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