KOCHI: As the state government prepares to notify minimum legal size (MLS) for 58 species of fish as a measure to replenish the fish stock along the Kerala coast, questions about the preparedness of the enforcers and effectiveness of the solution are being raised. Implementing MLS would entail factoring out juvenile fishes of each species from the total catch. As per the recommendations of Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) and Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), this could be achieved by making the mesh sizes of the nets bigger and adopting a square mesh.
But, implementation of MLS is beset by many challenges. “A major problem is that we do not have officials to enforce the rules at the harbours where the fishes land. Though the fisheries community has woken up to the importance of MLS, that need not ensure that the rules are followed. Moreover, the marine enforcement wing of Fisheries Department is understaffed to monitor the catch,” says Leela Edwin, principal scientist at CIFT.
Fishing Boat Operators Association general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalapurakal says implementing MLS would not help the fisheries sector tide over its present crisis. “Implementing MLS would not help fishers in the present crisis, as it is not brought about by juvenile fishing. The crisis was due to overexploitation of fish wealth,” he says. Kalapurakal says standardisation of boats and nets can only help. “The boats that are bigger than 20 metres and use more than 200 horse power should be banned from fishing. The number of boats should also be reduced,” he says.
Kalapurakkal came down heavily on the scientists of CMFRI and CIFT for recommending outdated and unscientific solutions to the crisis. “When the scientists vouch for nets with bigger, square-shaped meshes, they have not checked the plausibility. With big meshes, we might be able to catch sardines or mackerel, but have to lose out on fishes like anchovies,” he said. He also criticised the scientists for not deciding upon a ‘minimum sustainable yield’ and for suggesting ‘unscientific’ periods for the trawling ban.