KOCHI: Amid disturbing reports of depleting marine wealth in Kerala’s coastal waters, destructive fishing practices followed by fishing boats from Tamil Nadu have sparked concern among traditional fishermen and scientists. Tamil Nadu boats which operate from various harbours in the state are following destructive fishing practices like pair bottom trawling and pair pelagic trawling, traditional fishermen say.
On Friday evening, a team of officers from the Fisheries Department during a routine check seized pelagic net used for pelagic pair trawling from ‘Winner - 2’, a fishing boat belonging to a Tamil Nadu native. The team impounded and auctioned the Rs 1.5 lakh worth of threadfin bream fish stocked on the boat and slapped a Rs 2.5 lakh fine on the boat’s owner. The rogue boat belongs to A Salonraj hailing from Vaniamkudi at Colachel in Tamil Nadu, according to K K Lajid, Fisheries Assistant Director.
Though bottom trawling is banned, many fishing boats follow the destructive practice. This is the first time the authorities have come across an instance of pelagic pair trawling here. Pelagic pair trawling is the practice in which two trawl boats will drag a huge pelagic net through the surface and midwater catching everything that comes its way. Scientists are of the opinion such practices will lead to destruction of marine ecosystem and depletion of fish stocks.
On July 27, the Fisheries Department had seized ‘Holy Mother’, a Tamil Nadu boat which was not registered in Kerala. On inspection, trawl nets and ice were found in the boat’s storeroom The 34 m-long, 7.24 m-wide boat having a draft of 4.5 m and powered by a 550 HP chinese-make engine belongs to Amalraj of Reethapuram in Colachel.
“The pelagic trawl net seized on Friday was one km-long. The Tamil Nadu boats are fitted with the powerful Chinese-made engines. Two boats will drag the towing cables of the net and the mouth of the net will be open. All pelagic and midwater fish, including juveniles, in the area will be trapped in the net. Such unethical practices will lead to depletion of fish stocks,” said Lajid.
“The pelagic and midwater fish varities are the livelihood of traditional fishermen, while mechanised boats catch fish which live on the sea bed. If mechanised boats start catching pelagic fish it will lead to confrontation between the two groups,” said CMFRI principal scientist K Sunil Mohamed.
“Pelagic trawling is not as destructive as bottom trawling. Ecologically, it is a better fishing practice. Pelagic pair trawling is an efficient fishing practice as the catch will be three times higher than normal trawling. But it is a destructive practice as it causes depletion of marine resources due to over exploitation,” he said.
According to the fishermen, some boat building yards in Munambam are providing powerful boats and banned fishing nets to the Tamil Nadu fishermen. A majority of the mechanised boats are owned and operated by people from Tamil Nadu. The fishermen at Thopumpady harbour have a tie-up with these Tamil Nadu groups and they auction the catch brought by them.“Many mechanised boat owners had fitted pelagic nets in their boats during the trawl ban period,” said Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi state president Charles George.