Use of banned methods for fishing cuttlefish using what Fisheries Department officials call fish aggregating devices (FADs) is feared to be widespread in the region in the absence of surveillance to monitor compliance.
Though the Fisheries Department officials and personnel of the Marine Enforcement wing have initiated action against the use of illegal FADs for cuttlefish fishery, there is a concern that it is difficult to monitor use of FADs as they are moored in waters beyond the reach of enforcement facilities. Use of coconut flower stacks (spadix) is becoming a popular FAD for catching cuttlefish among fishermen in the region, they feared.
“It requires extensive surveillance to monitor compliance of fishing crafts and boats with the ban on cuttlefish fishing using FADs as the illegal fishing practices occur either on the periphery of, or beyond, the territorial waters,” said Joint Fisheries Director Dineshan Cheruvatt.
The support of coastal police and the Coast Guard has to be roped in to check such illegal fishery practices including night-time patrolling that poses security threat, Dr. Cheruvatt told The Hindu .
The experts in the fisheries sector say that though use of coconut spadix is popular in the region for making FADs, non-degradable materials such as discarded fish nets and plastic bottles are also being used to construct the devices.
They say that each module of FAD may consist of 50-60 coconut spadix tied to nylon rope.
These FADs are used to form an artificial reef structure to attract cuttlefish. Studies show that decaying spadix attract large number of cuttlefishes to the areas and provide ideal environment.
Fisheries and Marine Enforcement personnel who were involved in the operations against illegal fishing activities say that use of banned methods including FADs are being resorted to as the number of fishing boats in the State has increased while the fishery resource has recorded a decline.
“Various studies including the Kalavar committee commissioned by the State government have recommended a maximum fishing fleet size of 24,000,” Dr. Cheruvatt said.
At present more than 34,000 fishing vessels are registered in Kerala, Dr. Cheruvatt said.
In addition a lot of migratory vessels, both with and without proper permit, operate in the waters off the Kerala coast, he pointed out.
Though enforcement personnel occasionally seize a few fishing boats engaged in cuttlefish fishing using FADs, they say that a fool-proof surveillance patrolling in the territorial waters using hired vessels is not much effective in checking banned fishing methods.
Each FAD consists of 50-60 coconut spadix tied to nylon rope
More than 34,000 vessels registered in State for fishing