KOLLAM: It’s that time of the year when fisherfolk and the mechanised fishing boats which employ them in the state enter a 45-day enforced sabbatical for the sake of sustainable fisheries.
The trawling ban which will begin on June 15 would stretch till July 31, a period when traditional fishermen will have the sea for themselves. But fisherfolk and industry experts express fears that the ban would remain a show of tokenism, unless prevailing unsustainable practices in the sector are addressed.
A casual visit to the fishing harbour here will bring you across small heaps of fish. If you can brave the sharp stench and take a closer look you’ll find that they are younger varieties of the popular fish - mackerel, sardines and ribbon. But these juvenile fish, transported to factories in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, are not for human consumption. They are of use as raw material for making manure or chicken feed.
“If allowed to grow, these fish would fetch a higher market value. A kilogram of ribbon fish of 10 gram size are sold at `7-10 whereas an adult ribbon fish of 2 kg would fetch `400,” said Jacob Joseph of Ocean Sea Food, which sells fish in wholesale market.
The netting of fish fry (recently hatched fish that can feed for itself) is a major worry for fisherfolk in the district, who share concerns of sustainability. It’s a widespread menace that threatens their livelihood, but they acknowledge that many from their own community are guilty of this illegal business. Traditional fishermen blame large mechanised fishing boats for unsustainable practices including bottom trawling and fishing using lights.
The fishermen had a tradition of sustainable fishing. They used to leave the bycatch to the sea itself. “But now fishermen and boat owner share the ‘extra profit’ by selling the young fish to the manure industry,” said Subhash Kalavara, member, Kerala Fisheries Co-ordination Council.