KOCHI: Setting off a debate on the loss of livelihood, unemployment and depleting marine stocks in Kerala’s coastal sea, the 52-day trawl ban period commenced here on Monday morning. The 3,500 - odd trawl boats and longliners have anchored near the harbours in the state and the workers, most of them hailing from neighbouring Tamil Nadu, have returned home. The Fisheries Department has started patrolling the coastal seas to ensure that no mechanised boats violate the ban.
However, the usual festive cheer is missing among the traditional fishermen, who are allowed to continue fishing during the ban period. Though the traditional fishermen used to get bumper catch during the ban period due to the absence of big trawlers, there has been a steep decline in availability of fish in the coastal sea, due to overfishing.
The traditional fishermen, who were eagerly waiting the onset of monsoon, are in distress as the cyclonic storm has turned the sea rough. The Fisheries Department has been restraining the fishermen from venturing into the sea due to the adverse climatic conditions prevailing in the region for the past couple of days.The monsoon season usually attracts more fish species to the coastal sea as the flood waters will bring nutrients to the sea, which trigger the growth of plankton. The traditional fishermen will make use of the opportunity which will sustain their lives during the lean months.
“A majority of the traditional fishing boats has stopped venturing into the sea for the past four months due to depleting marine stocks. Many fishermen groups are in debt trap as they are not even able to meet the operation cost. Besides, the climatic change triggered by El Nino has also affected the marine ecosystem adversely,” said Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi president Charles George.
Another cause of concern is the migration of sardine to the Tamil Nadu coast. There has been a sharp decline in the availability of oil sardine in Kerala sea, while there has been a steep increase in the presence of the fish in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Rameswaram coasts in Tamil Nadu. Most of the sardine sold in Kerala arrives from Tamil Nadu, said a fisherman. “Fishermen in Kerala are in dire straits. Overfishing and destructive fishing have led to depletion of marine stocks. The government should ensure steps to regulate fishing in Kerala waters,” said National Fish Workers Forum general secretary T Peter.
3.500 Mechanised fishing boats
32,000 Traditional fishing boats