Expressing serious concern over “dwindling catch of cuttlefish – it fetches over Rs. 150 (US$2.8) a kg in the domestic market and is exported at a far higher rate – fishermen in Mangalore in the south Indian State of Karnataka have threatened to launch agitation if illegal fishing of the species is not curbed.

The fishermen fear cuttlefish would vanish from the west coast if the use of a banned method to catch it allegedly resorted to by fishermen from other States is not stopped immediately. A fishermen’s leader put the drop in the catch by about 75 per cent in the last five years based on “his own experience. The illegal method of catching cuttlefish – known as chouri locally – involves dropping the trunk of coconut palm in waters near boulders. When it decays, the fish is believed to get attracted and is caught.

It is alleged that fishermen from other States caught the fish even during its peak breeding season from October to February thereby adversely affecting its population. However there is no independent scientific study to corroborate their fears. Both Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute and College of Fisheries said they have not conducted any study on these lines. The Deputy Director Fisheries Sureshkumar Ullal claimed that cuttlefish catch was good in the current season, contrary to what is feared.

However, Coastal Karnataka Fishermen Action Committee and Fishers Malple Fishermen Deep Sea Trawl Boat Association have threatened to launch an agitation over the issue.

Leaders of the two organisations allege that some of the fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who engage in fishing in Mangalore and Malpe coasts for the entire season resorted to banned method and also caught cuttlefish using hooks. The Malpe Association President Gopal Kunder and Action Committee Working President Loknath Bolar said alleged wrongdoings of fishermen from other States have been brought to the notice of the authorities repeatedly but to no avail. Mr. Kunder said the fish catch was down by 75 per cent in five years. He has been in the field since 1992, he said.

The Deputy Director said associations had not provided any proof to say that fishermen from other States were using banned method of fishing. He said the department would initiate action if proof is given.

Mr. Bolar and Mr. Kunder alleged that the department was only shirking its responsibility of keeping a vigil on fishing activities.They sought intervention of Deputy Commissioners of the two districts to ensure that the ban is implemented effectively.

2012, The Hindu