KOLLAM: A day after the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accorded the coveted certification to the Ashtamudi estuary for its sustainable fishing practices of clams (locally known as Kallikakka), the team conducted a site visit on Thursday.
The nine-member team consisting of members of MSC, World Wildlife Fund India, Kerala State Fisheries Department and the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) visited Dalavapuram and Sebastian Island.
They watched the fishing activities and interacted with the fishermen. The certificate was presented at a function held at the CMFRI in Kochi on Wednesday.
Standards director of MSC, David Agnew, who was part of the delegation said that Ashtamudi yellow clam fishery was only the third fishery in Asia to have received the certification which would enable exporting opportunities to newer markets such as Europe and get better price.
According to Agnew, MSC certification was the world’s most rigorous, science-based standard for sustainable seafood. India exports around 784 tonnes of clams annually, of which 80 per cent comes from Ashtamudi. The yellow clam fishery in Ashtamudi dates back to 1981 and supports the livelihoods of around 3,000 fishers involved in collection, cleaning process and trading the clams.
The growth of Ashtamudi’s commercial fishery was driven by demand from Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia in the 1980s and 1990s. By 1991, the catch peaked to 10,000 tonnes a year, but declined by 50 per cent in 1993 owing to over-fishing. A closed season and mesh size restrictions for nets were introduced, along with a minimum export size and a prohibition on mechanical clam fishing.
These measures showed immediate results and the clam fishery has sustained landings of around 10,000 tonnes a year in the past decade.
Ashtamudi Lake, a Ramsar Wetland of international importance, is the second largest estuarine system in Kerala.
It has extensive mangrove habitats harbouring nearly 90 species of fish and 10 species of clams.