I was always interested in wildlife and started off with the Student Sea Turtle Conservation Network in Chennai. We focused on saving sea turtles and protecting them from getting eaten by dogs or getting destroyed in other ways. After my master’s from National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, I began studying sea turtles more deeply in Odisha and found how they were under threat due to fishing.
Growing up in Chennai, which is a coastal city, triggered my interest in marine ecosystems. During my work in the Gulf of Mannar, a biosphere reserve, and Maharashtra’s Malvan Sanctuary, we found that in India we currently lack reliable fish population data across spatial and time scales necessary for good management. Our study published in the journal Oryx documented perceptions of fishermen about the state of fish population and other marine species that were caught in fishing nets in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. We also recorded how people fish and manage fisheries and explored their willingness to use sustainable techniques.
While fish like pomfret that have very high market value were already dwindling, fishermen moved on to other species to sustain business. The population of species like snails and sea turtles, which fishermen consider useless, are also reducing. The government manipulates fisheries management by providing schemes that promote industrialisation but is unable to regulate fishing. There are also no laws to control the number of fishermen or fishing vessels in operation at a time. Therefore, it seems that fishery is managed de-facto by the community.
— Twenty-eight-year-old Divya Karnad is reading for PhD at Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA