KOCHI: Efforts by the government and a section of fishers to end illegal fishing have gone down the drain, as boats with tonnes of juvenile fish have started landing at Munambam harbour, one of the biggest fishing harbours in the state, this week. Numerous boats reached the port on Wednesday with staggering tonnes of fish, according to fishers and Fisheries officials.
As per the rough estimation of an official in the Fisheries sector, about six to eight tonnes of juvenile fish land in Munambam a day. It shows that Munambam has once again become the hub of illegal fishing in the interests of the fishmeal lobby in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Rampant exploitation of juveniles of thread fin breams, ribbon fishes, mackerel and leather jacket is a serious cause of concern among traditional fishers and marine conservationists.
Fisher organisations at Munambam admit that juvenile fishing has resumed as the decision to self-regulate failed. “Most of the big boats operating from here are from Tamil Nadu, particularly from Kulachal. These boats have been engaged in juvenile fishing all these months challenging the ban and our decision to self-regulate. This has left our men at a loss forcing them to engage in unsustainable fishing,” says K K Velayudhan, president, Trawlnet Boat Owners Association, Munambam.
An official working for the promotion of sustainable fishing practices said that at least 40-60 tonnes of juveniles have been traded at Munambam in the past one week. Huge catches of juveniles of Neymeen (Seer fish), which is in high demand in the local market, were found among the fish landings. One kilogram of juvenile seer fish is sold as cheap as ` 150 to ` 200 per kilogram.
Traditional fishermen allege that a meeting of the fishing boats owners two weeks ago, had decided to challenge the enforcement of the order imposing Minimun Legal Size (MLS) for fish being caught in the state. “It is true that dwindling number of fish due to juvenile fishing is detrimental and would affect us all. We know that and we are against it. But a national policy is needed to regulate it. Regulation in the coastline alone will not do any good and in fact, big players from other states would reap the benefits,” K K Velayudhan said.
Fisheries experts point out that the trawl ban during the spawning season was first implemented in Kerala in 1980s, a big step towards conservation of marine fish resources. Once everybody realised the necessity of such regulation, other states followed suit. Similarly, the MLS regulation would be taken up at the national level in due course of time.
juvenile fishing: important challenge
Local fishers allege that juvenile fishing is one among the many illegal fishing methods in use and an important challenge to address. Big boats, having the facilities to remain in sea for more than a month, go far up to Goan coasts from Munambam. Most of these boats are from Tamil Nadu and have invented ingenious ways to catch commercial fish. They make artificial floating islands using sand bags, empty pet bottles, coconut flower stalks and place Geo positioning system (GPS) which can be retrieved after long fishing trips. This banned method is used mainly to attract Cuttle fish which has high export value.
enforcement wing takes tough steps
Kochi: Marine Enforcement officials have stepped up efforts to check illegal fishing at Munambam and other fish landing centres in the district. According to K M Sajeevan, CI of Marine Enforcement Wing, 11 boats that flouted regulations have been seized in a week and many were served notices. More personnel were posted at Munambam to check landing of juvenile fishing. “We will continue to enforce the existing regulations. We are duty bound to enforce them and will continue to do that. We have sent notices to all market players that juvenile fish should not be bought or sold. If the boats continue to engage in juvenile fishing, we will have to seek help from the local police and pursue enforcement more seriously,” the officer clarified.