The proposed National Policy on Marine Fisheries 2016 is likely to put the breaks on the destructive practice of juvenile fishing across the country.
“Use of low-value fish in fish feed industry is a matter of concern as it can lead to overfishing of low value fish and bycatch, and this could ultimately undermine the entire marine eco system”, says the first draft of the Marine Fisheries Policy.
The draft was prepared for the stakeholder consultations held in Kochi on February 4 and is expected to undergo changes as stakeholder consultations continue in the coastal States.
Juvenile fishing has been banned by Kerala when it notified minimum legal size for a dozen commercially important species early last year. However, there have been reports of large-scale landings of juveniles in Kerala harbours.
There are also allegations that fishermen from neighbouring States are engaged in juvenile fishing in waters off the Kerala coast and landing the catch in their own States as other States have not banned the practice.
The draft also expressed concern at the spread of fish meal factories.
“The spread of fish meal plants in some parts of the country and their overwhelming demand for small pelagics has already driven the valuable oil sardines stock to very low levels in some parts of the country,” says the draft. It goes on to say that the government must take steps to control and regulate the proliferation of fish meal plants. The policy-makers, comprising a committee headed by the Director General of Indian Council for Agricultural Research S. Ayyappan, has emphasised the need to strengthen cooperatives in the fisheries sector. While the cooperatives have taken roots in some States, it is not so in other States, says the policy draft.
“The cooperatives in fisheries sector can best serve the community if they adopt good business models, which would include both harvest and post-harvest functions.”