KOCHI: The fishermen of Thekkumbhagam grama panchayat in Kollam district, who had imposed a self-regulation on clam fishing in Ashtamudi lake have been rewarded for their efforts. The practice being followed to exploit the resource of short-necked clam (Paphia malabarica) in Thekkumbhagam panchayat is certified as sustainable fishing practice by the Marine Stewardship Council(MSC).
The certificate was presented at a function held at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) here on Wednesday. The three-year-long process of certification was jointly implemented by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi, local bodies of Kollam and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-India.
The clam fishery in Ashtamudi dates back to 1981 and supports the livelihood of around 3,000 fishermen involved in collection, cleaning, processing and trading. Around 90 species of fish and 10 species of clams are found there.
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 overfishing.
Following the depletion, fishermen had been practising a self-imposed regulation the past two decades by declaring a fishing holiday between December and February for the rejuvenation of the stock. As part of its preparations for MSC-assessment, Ashtamudi clam fishers formed the Village Clam Fishery Council to develop management measures and officially represent the fishery at regional and state level.
“The WWF-India initiated the MSC Certification of the Ashtamudi short-neck clam fishery in 2010 recognising the possibility of bringing in global sustainability standards for the benefit of conservation and local livelihoods. Efforts bore fruits,” WWF-India Secretary General and CEO Ravi Singh said.
Marine Stewardship Council standards director David Agnew said that not only the developing countries but also developed European countries were also going for certification of sustainable fisheries. Experts point out that the fish produced under sustainable practice gets premium price up to 30 per cent more than the market rate.
CMFRI director A Gopalakrishnan, Vinod Malayilethu of WWF India, Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) chairperson Leena Nair, Ministry of Environment and Forests Additional Secretary Hem Kumar Pandey. WWF-India Secretary General and CEO Ravi Singh, Thekkumbhagam panchayat president Thankachi Prabhakaran, Marine Stewardship Council standards director David Agnew and CMFRI scientist Sunil Mohammed spoke. WWF-India programme director Sejal Worah received the certificate.