KOCHI: The sea, of late, hasn’t been all that magnanimous to the fishing community. Dwindling catch had set off alarms bells. But cheer up, folks! The latest trawling ban period, beginning Wednesday midnight, is expected to rejuvenate the marine fishing sector in Kerala. Thanks to the El Nino factor.
A weakened El Nino - the warm Pacific Ocean current affecting climate globally - has led to a good distribution of rainfall along and off the state coast from the onset of this South West Monsoon. Marine experts have had their fingers crossed as, for the past four years, the monsoon had influenced badly the breeding patterns of sardines and mackerel - the major catch for traditional fishermen.
“A good spatial distribution of rainfall will ensure availability of food for the larvae of freshly bred sardines and mackerel which usually occupy surface and sub-surface waters,” K Sunil Mohamed of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute told Express.
Besides, the good rainfall and ocean upwelling - a phenomenon in which cold nutrient-rich waters from the ocean depths rise to the top - will play a vital role in mating and the subsequent availability of fish. “Recent observations on the breeding of major fish along the coast of Kerala seem to have confirmed the point the nutrient composition of water during the upwell phenomena played a role in spawning.
And the monsoon seems to be directly related to the breeding of most fish.
If the rain is deficient or in excess, it will influence the breeding or spawning of fish, said Sunil. CMFRI statistics showed fishermen have been catching sardines from coastal waters chiefly using seines for about 200 years
According to an estimate prepared by the institute based on the 2005-2007 data, the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of sardines along the Kerala coast is 2.3 lakh tonnes. But, in 2012, the sardine catch rose to 3.9 lakh tonnes, well above the MSY. In the subsequent years, the sardine harvest declined to 2.1 lakh tonnes in 2013 - a dip of 46 per cent - and 1.6 lakhs tonnes in 2014 - a decline of 61 per cent. In 2015, the harvest dipped to 68,431 tonnes, a record slide of 82 per cent.
This year, in the first phase of the monsoon, the state received a cumulative rainfall of 224.4 mm against a normal of 231.2 mm, registering a meagre deficit of 2.94 per cent. Considering the larger interest of its marine wealth, the state should enforce the 61-day trawling ban by the Centre on all fishing vessels in the Exclusive Economic Zone from 12 to 200 nautical miles, said marine scientists.