Climate change has significantly affected the annual fish catch in Dakshina Kannada district this year, leading to a decline in production. According to the Dakshina Kannada Fisheries Department, the total fish production for the fiscal year 2023-24 stands at 1.8 lakh metric tonnes, a 43% decline compared to the previous year.

This is a marked decrease from previous years: 2020-21 saw a production of 2.2 metric tonnes, 2.9 lakh metric tonnes in 2021-22, and 3.3 lakh metric tonnes in 2022-23. In fact, due to a fish shortage last financial year, around 30-35% of trawl boats at Mangaluru Old Port were already anchored by November.

Dilip Kumar, deputy director of fisheries, Dakshina Kannada, told TOI that the impact of El Nino is evident as the significant temperature difference has caused fish shoals to migrate. The nutrient inflow was poor. “We are hopeful that if the region receives good rainfall and river runoff and nutrient mix-up is good, the next season will be better,” he said.

Fish catch in April-May was lower likely due to El Nino

Experts attribute the fall in fish catch to changes in rainfall patterns and extreme heat. According to experts from ICAR-CMFRI, there has been an improvement in fish catch. However, there are concerns regarding potential impacts later in the year. The La Nina effect, expected during the monsoon, could lead to above-normal rainfall and possibly excessive flooding in certain areas by August. The fish catch was lower during April-May, likely due to the El Nino phenomenon, which contributed to this year’s record-high temperatures.

For instance, along the Mangaluru Coast, sea surface temperatures reached 33° Celsius by 11 am, while atmospheric temperatures soared to 39° Celsius. These temperature fluctuations can significantly affect ocean currents and wave patterns, potentially impacting fishing conditions and marine ecosystems.

Sources indicate that the decline in fish catch can be attributed to several factors, including excessive fishing practices and an increasing demand for trash fish by fish meal units. Additionally, over-mechanization, unregulated mesh sizes, light fishing, bull trawling, bottom trawling, and the use of high-speed engines have been identified as contributors to the reduction in marine biodiversity and habitat loss. “These practices have led to significant challenges in sustaining fish populations and preserving marine ecosystems,” a source said.