KOCHI: In a major step towards conserving marine wealth, the state government has come out with a gazette notification banning the capture of juvenile fish belonging to 44 more species, including popular varieties like sardine, mackerel, tuna, seer fish and pomfret.The government also brought out a list of minimum legal size (MLS) of each species which can be netted. With this, the number of species restricted with MLS has risen to 58.
As suggested by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in July 2015, the state government had banned the catching of juveniles of 14 fish species. Though the CMFRI had suggested 58 species after holding discussions with various stakeholders, the state government had imposed curbs only on capturing 14 species.
Juvenile fish are mainly used for production of fish feed and fertilisers. According to CMFRI data, Kerala produces only 60 per cent of fish it required and the remaining quantity is being imported from neighbour states.“Ban on fishing of juveniles of 58 species was recommended in the wake of a huge fall in the catch. The decision to abstain from catching juvenile fish and fishing during night was taken at a workshop held for fishermen organisatons two years ago. The fishermen organisaton has been demanding inclusion of all 58 species in the list. With the state coming out with the new list, the demand has been realised,” said Charles George, president of Malsyathozhilali Aikya Vedi.
Fishermen divided over curbs
The fishermen organisations are divided over the new restrictions. While the traditional sector supports the government decision, boat owners are of the opinion that it is an impractical move. The traditional fishers allege the boats from the state are moving to harbours outside Kerala with their catch to bypass the ban.
The boat owners said it was impossible to implement such a ban effectively along the Kerala coast alone. “What we demand is a pan-India standardisation of specifications of the boats, net and other fishing gears.
We do not have a mechanism to identify the size of the fish under water. We also have to introduce restrictions on the gears used for catching spawners (fish carrying egg). For example, a spawner sardine carries around 1.5 lakh eggs. It is estimated around 75,000 of them will survive and grow into full size, which means, life of 7.5 lakh sardines can be facilitated by not catching just seven spawners. It is a proven method in foreign countries. We have submitted a memorandum to the Union Government in this regard,” said Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary of the All-Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association.
“We do not catch juvenile fish deliberately. Since the restrictions imposed by the government cannot be violated, we are forced to move to harbours out of Kerala with our catch,” he said.
Kerala produces only 60 pc of fish it required and the remaining quantity is being imported from neighbouring states