Illegal fishing practices are posing serious threat to fish resources and aquatic biodiversity in the south Indian State of Kerala. Creation of artificial substrata, use of dynamites in shallow parts of seas and fishing during high tides in backwaters have been reported in the State, though such activities have been banned by law.

Officials of the Fisheries Department had recently confiscated huge bundles of bamboo shoots from some fishing groups in Kochi, which were intended to create “Paru or artificial substrata, said E.G. George Kutty, deputy director of Fisheries, Ernakulam.

The tender shoots of ornamental bamboo and yellow bamboo were brought for the use of migratory fishermen. These bundles were intended to be tugged to Fort Kochi area. The fishermen and their agents were warned of the consequences of engaging in such activities, he said.

The fishermen from neighbouring States have been found engaged in this practice. The bamboo bundles will be held in the shallow parts of the seas using ropes and stones. In some cases, there were also reports of fishermen using flower stalks of coconut trees. Local fishermen had also raised complaints about the use of such measures, which are banned by law, he said.

Some of the representatives of the trade unions from the sector had raised the issue before a legislative Committee on Fisheries that organised a sitting at Kochi recently. They had also complained about the use of dynamites by a section of the fishermen for fishing, said Dominic Presentation, MLA and head of the panel.

The Fisheries officials were asked to conduct frequent inspections and ensure that such unsustainable practises are not used by fishermen, Mr. Presentation, a former Fisheries Minister of Kerala, said.

Molluscan fish varieties like squids will be attracted to the artificial substrata. They also use these artificial substrata as breeding grounds. Fishermen were reportedly using hooks and lines for fishing also in these areas, said a trade union leader from the sector.

B. Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences said that the dynamites were used near the artificial substrata created by the fishermen. Fishes in various stages of their lifecycle including larvae, juveniles and adults congregate at the artificial substrata. The use of explosives will kill the fishes besides wiping out the biomass, Dr. Kurup said.

Regarding the use of dynamites, Mr. Kutty said that there may be stray incidents of use of explosives in sea. The use of the explosive materials in seas would have come down with the increased patrolling in the coastal belt by the security agencies, said Mr. Kutty.
Fishing during high tide

Fishing operations in backwaters during high tide has also been noticed by the authorities. Fishermen use Chinese nets and gillnets for fishing during this time of the day, Mr. Presentation said.

Fishes and prawns move to the inland water bodies from seas during high tide in search of food. Some prawns complete their life cycle by migrating from the seas to freshwater bodies. Fishing during entry time into the freshwater bodies will affect the fish wealth and fish biodiversity, Dr. Kurup pointed out.

Laws enacted by the State government had banned these illegal fishing practices. The Legislative Committee will include the issues that have come to its notice in its report, Mr. Presentation said.

2012, The Hindu