KOCHI: Pelagic trawling, banned due to the harm it poses to marine wealth, is gaining popularity in the city. In a drive against illegal fishing modes adopted by certain trawling boats here, the Marine Enforcement Wing in Ernakulam has registered several cases.K J Shibu Kumar, CI, Marine Enforcement, said as many as four trawling boats engaged in trawling using pelagic nets were seized in the last three days alone. Three of the boats were intercepted from Munambam and one from Kochi.
The practice is more rampant among vessels operating from Munambam harbour as the presence of enforcement agencies is relatively less there. The boat operators were booked under section 4(1),(d),(a),(b), (c) of the Kerala Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1980. A fine exceeding ` 1 lakh each was imposed on the vessels, while the fish they caught was auctioned and the money was deposited to the exchequer.
“If trawlers are found engaged in pelagic fishing again, adjudication procedure can be initiated. Stringent legal action will be initiated against the boat’s owner. The vessel’s licence can also get cancelled,” said Shibu.
He said even juvenile fishes got caught when pelagic nets were used which severely impacted fish breeding and its population. “However, a major concern is that vessels are engaging in paired pelagic trawling, which nets three times more the catch than what would have been caught via single-boat trawling. The nets are made secretively and are kept hidden under other nets on the boat so that enforcement agencies do not detect it,” Shibu said. “Since a majority of trawling boats leaves coast at midnight, intercepting them is a difficult task. Most often, these vessels are caught following tip-off from other boat owners or during inspections when the vessels return to harbour,” he said.
Marine Enforcement officers claim the high demand for juvenile fishes from cattle feed and fertiliser manufacturing companies is a reason behind the recent rise in pelagic trawling. Earlier, several cases were reported on trawling boats spreading nets close to the coast to catch juvenile fishes. “Cattle feed and fertilisers companies from other states are procuring juvenile fish from Kerala coast in huge quantities. Previously, such illegal fishing activities were carried out during the off-season. But the recent trend is some boats prefer to catch juvenile fishes which are easy targets. There is also an allegation even traditional fishermen are using pelagic nets and mid-water trawl nets. Patrolling has been intensified to prevent such illegal activities,” said Fisheries Department officer.