KOCHI: There needs to be a self regulation in the fishing sector as climate change has led to depletion of fish stock and change in the breeding season, said CMFRI principal scientist P U Zacharia.
There has been a steady decrease in fish catch after 2012 due to over-fishing and climate change, said Charles. “While we got 8.39 lakh tonnes of fish in 2012, the catch declined to 5.2 lakh this year. While 3.9 lakh tonnes of sardine was caught in 2012, it declined to 20,000 tonnes this year. Meanwhile, the input cost has been climbing, making it unaffordable for traditional fishermen to sustain their lives,” he said.
“The availability of fish in the coastal area has declined steadily and we need bigger boats to conduct fishing. These boats coast `50 lakh to `1 crore and the yearly interest and depreciation cost amounts to `20 lakh a year. Now, fishermen have formed groups to buy boats and conduct fishing. The fishing sector in Kerala has suffered a loss of `10,000 crore due to decline in the availability of sardine,” he said.
According to traditional fishermen, there is a huge demand for juvenile fish as prawn farms in Andhra Pradesh and other neighbouring state are using fish manure as feed. “In 2015, we had convened a meeting and decided to impose a self regulation to maintain the marine wealth. As per the agreement, both mechanised boats and traditional fishermen will avoid juvenile fishing. However, the boat owners have started catching them. Though the government has banned catching mackerel below 14 cm and sardine below 11 cm, the machanised boats are catching fish as small as 6 cm,” said Charles.
However, Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal said the government regulation was unfair. “There will be all kinds of fish in the catch and it’s not possible to avoid juvenile fish. Even the CMFRI had recommended in a study that there can be up to 50 per cent juvenile fish in the catch. But the Fisheries Department is seizing our boats even if the share of juvenile fish is 20 per cent,” he said.
According to Xavier, the mechanised boats are involved in deep-sea fishing and it does not affect the traditional fishermen who fish in the coastal waters. Mechanised boats from Karnataka and Goa reach up to Ponnani coast and Tamil Nadu boats reach up to Kochi. There is no regulation in these states and even if we avoid juvenile fishing the other state boats will catch it. Refuting the claims over depletion in fish stock, Xavier said traditional boats get `3 crore to `7 crore worth of mackerel and sardine.
“There’s a huge demand for sardine in the prawn farming sector as fish meal. The traditional fishermen sell sardine to prawn farms and are getting good revenue. Around 95 per cent of the workers in the mechanised fishing boats are from Colachel in Tamil Nadu and they are fed up by the harassment of Fisheries Department. A meeting was convened on Tuesday at a church there and the workers decided to stop going in Kerala boats. So from next week onwards the mechanised boats in Kerala will not be able to operate,” he said.