KOCHI: India's marine fishing sector registered a marginal increase of 2.1 per cent in production in 2019 compared to the previous year. However, certain alarming factors including warming of the Indian Ocean have led to decline in stocks of commercially valuable fish species, causing concern among the fishing community.
The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) on Tuesday released the figures of India's fish production in 2019, which reported a marginal increase in fish landings at the national level. The country's total landings stood at 35.6 lakh tonnes compared to 34.9 lakh tonnes in 2018.
Tamil Nadu grabbed the first position with 7.75 lakh tonnes of landings overtaking Gujarat, which has been leading the table for years. Fish landings in Gujarat declined from 7.80 lakh tonnes in 2018 to 7.49 lakh tonnes in 2019. Kerala retained third position with 5.44 lakh tonnes but total fish landings declined from 6.43 lakh tonnes in 2018 to 5.44 lakh tonnes in 2019.
The data indicated a worrying feature of a sharp increase of stocks of commercially unimportant fish species. The red-toothed trigger fish, which has little demand in the domestic market and is mostly caught for the purpose of feed mills, dominated the landings with 2.74 lakh tonnes. The landings of the species stood at 72,000 tonnes in 2018.
Warming of the Indian Ocean due to the El Nino factor has led to a steep decline of commercially valuable fish species along the Indian coastline. While the availability of the Indian mackerel and oil sardine shrunk by 50 per cent, there was a steep rise in the stocks of red-toothed trigger fish which is used only for fish meal. According to the CMFRI, there was no breeding activity of mackerel and oil sardine along the Kerala coast during the breeding season this year.
The Indian mackerel, which was in the first spot with 2.84 lakh tonnes of landings in 2018, suffered the biggest setback with a decline of 43 per cent. While West Bengal recorded a 55 per cent increase in landings, Andhra Pradesh reported a 34 per cent increase. Odisha's catch grew by 14.5 per cent and Karnataka's landings climbed by 11 per cent while Tamil Nadu's catch shot up by 10.4 per cent.
Meanwhile, the catch in Goa shrunk by 44 per cent and Maharashtra's share declined by 32 per cent. Kerala reported a reduction of 15.4 per cent compared to the previous year with a total of 5.44 lakh tonnes. Ribbon fish with 2.19 lakh tonnes climbed to the second position in landings followed by penaeid prawns with 1.95 lakh tonnes and non-penaeid prawns with 1.80 lakh tonnes.
The fishing sector suffered a setback as the number of fishing days declined due to eight cyclonic storms that disturbed the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. Six of the eight storms were very severe and the West Coast was worst affected by the suspension of fishing activities.
A sharp decline in the catch of oil sardine and Indian mackerel, the two major resources of the state, was the major factor that brought down fish production in Kerala. Oil sardine dropped to a meagre 44,320 tonnes, the lowest catch in two decades, while the landings of Indian mackerel plunged to 40,554 tonnes witnessing a steep decline of 50 per cent compared to the previous year.
In 2012, the catch of oil sardine touched a record high with 3.9 lakh tonnes. Since then, the state has been witnessing a substantial decrease in catch every year, though there was a slight increase in 2017. The oil sardine landings again continued to decline for the past two years thanks to the unfavourable changes in ocean environment.
After analysing the correlation between the ocean environment and biological cycle of the oil sardine, the CMFRI had forecast in January last year that sardine landings would decline in Kerala waters. The contribution of Kerala towards the overall landings in the country reduced to 15.3 per cent from 18.4 per cent in 2018.
Anchovies with 74.194 tonnes topped the list of the most landed resources in the state followed by red-toothed trigger fish (62,782 tonnes) and penaeid prawns (46,615 tonnes).
The estimated value of marine fish based on price at landing centres stood at Rs 60,881 crore in 2019 registering a 15.6 per cent increase. The unit price per kg of fish at landing centre rate was Rs 170.5. At the retail level, the estimated value of marine fish rose to Rs 92,356 crore. The unit price at the retail market level was Rs 258.7. The producers' share stood at 66 per cent while it was 70 per cent in Kerala.
CMFRI Director A Gopalakrishnan released the documents in Kochi on Tuesday. Principal scientists T V Sathianandan, Prathibha Rohit, P U Zacharia, P Laxmilatha, E M Abdussamad, C Ramachandran and Josileen Jose were present.