Lakhs of fishing boats all along the West Coast of India have been anchored. The fishermen have hung their shoes or to be precise their nets as the ban on fishing is in place. The crucial ban is observed by Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu following the Goa High Court order that observed and emphasized that if the ban is not simultaneously observed in all the coastal states, then the whole practice of introducing the ban with the view of helping the fish stock to multiply will fall flat.
Marine fisheries resources in our country are not just vast, but are so significant that it becomes imperative for lawmakers to have in place measures that could conserve them. In a coast length of 8,114 kms, large number of fishermen depend on these fisheries resources for their livelihood.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO)- Fishery Policy and Planning Division, Fisheries Department, collected a report and based on its review, it decided that, all countries should conserve fisheries resources and with this background, they introduced a code of conduct for responsible fisheries throughout the world and our country is also a signatory to it, for responsible fishing. Though the same was passed in Rome in 1993, it was introduced in India only in 2004 and since then the country has been witnessing fishing ban all along east and the west coast of varied time frame.
Along the east coast the ban is observed from April 15th to June 14th, while on the west coast the fishing ban is imposed from June 1st to July 31st- a ban period of 61 days, which was earlier observed for 45 days. Thanks to the wisdom of our bureaucrats based on the advise of the scientists in the country, they have increased the fishing ban period in our country, which augers well for better conservation and safety of the fishing community.
Why the ban?
However, many question the logic behind the ban and wonder if the fish breed only during the monsoon period.
Explaining the logic behind the same to Karnataka Today, Karnataka Veterinary Animal and Fisheries University, Bidar Director of Extension S M Shivaprakash says that we have south west monsoon and north east monsoon, ie-South west monsoon spans over June to September and north east monsoon is from October to April or May and this is the period when the fish predominantly breed.“The fish in the west coast primarily breed during June to September as the water temperature in the sea drops down. During the summer (from April to May), the water temperature in the sea shoots up to 32 degrees Centigrade and the fish living in the upper level of the sea which are called pelagic fish- like Indian Makarel, oil sardine, sear fish and some other varieties prefer a temperature of 26 to 27 degrees centigrade,” he says adding that since the weather is not favourable, these fish migrate deep sea to about 50 to 100 metres. With their absence in the upper layer of the sea, the purse seine fishing takes a beating during February to May.
Shivaprakasha adds with the onset of monsoon, there is copious rainfall facilitating huge influx of fresh water from the river, bringing down the temperature drastically. Encouraged by this the fish that had migrated deep sea emerge to the upper surface. The temperature reaches about 25 degree centigrade during monsoon, which is favourable for pelagic fish to breed.
With the return, the top 10 metres of the ocean would be crowded with fish, which congregate to feed upon fresh nutrients that the flowing rainwater has brought in. During the monsoon, the breeding activities go on and the sea is fertile with fish either carrying eggs and the fingerlings too.
Need to stick by ban
A research by Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute states that 80 per cent of fish caught during the ban period are fertile fish which carry eggs in the womb!
The research shows that an oil sardine/ mackerel produces 94,000 eggs while a ‘katla’ produces 1 lac to 1.5 lac eggs, which again can increase depending on the weight. If allowed to breed, one can imagine the increase in the fish stock in the period of mere 45 to 61 days.
While the local fishermen had initially raised concern over deep sea fishing vessels operating in Karnataka coastline during the ban period, off late, the fear has been allayed.
With only traditional boats allowed to venture into the sea during fishing ban, the fishermen say that the sea is the mighty plate, full of food for mankind. But, it is the duty of the mankind to respect this platter full of goodness, by allowing the fish to breed and breathe.