Fishers in distress as puffer fish roam coastal waters

The livelihood has been affected and many families are reduced to penury. The government should intervene to support the community.​

Published: 31st August 2018 04:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st August 2018 04:56 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI:The monsoon has been gracious this year bringing bountiful showers but the lives of fishermen remain in limbo as they have been restrained from venturing into the sea for most of the days due to extreme weather conditions.Fishermen, who returned to the sea after a long break on Monday were shocked to see shoals of puffer fish (Lagocephalus Inermis) prowling the coastal sea. Puffer fish, which pray on other species caught in the net, also damages fishing nets.

Fishermen had played a key role in rescuing the thousands stranded in the flooded houses from August 16 onwards as the rains and the subsequent opening of dams had triggered a deluge.“This monsoon has been extremely disappointing for the fishermen as they have been getting only small mackerel and anchovy. The price of mackerel has plummeted to around Rs 100 per kg and there has been a steep decline in the availability of other species including oil sardine. The livelihood has been affected and many families are reduced to penury. The government should intervene to support the community.

“Usually the species (puffer fish) appear in the post-monsoon period, however, this time they have arrived early,” said Fishermen Coordination committee president Charles George.According to experts, the drastic decline in predator fish population has led to an increase in population of puffer fish. “There has been an increase in the presence of puffer fish in the coastal sea during the post monsoon period since 2006. They damage the nylon nets and prey on the other catch , particularly squid and cuttle fish, thus decreasing their commercial value. The puffer fish has a spiny or prickly, loose skinned, ribless body, which helps it to gulp large quantity of water and take the shape of a prickly ball to escape from predators. They prey on anchovies and squids,” said Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute principal scientist  K Sunil Mohamed.

Cobia, catfish, skipjack tuna, king seer and shark are the major predators of puffer fish. There has been a drastic decline in the population of catfish, cobia and shark in the coastal sea, which has contributed to the increase in the population of puffer fish. The catch of cobia declined by 44 per cent after 2007 and the shark population has plummeted by 70 per cent. “It’s liver and gonads are toxic to human due to presence of tetradotoxin, which can cause asphyxiation and death,” said Sunil Mohamed.


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