With the trawling ban in force, fishermen along the coastline of Kerala are waiting for mudbank, the unique phenomenon of shoals of fish appearing in a calm area of the sea near the coast. Chakara, in local parlance, has been spotted vaguely at a few locations near Punnapra, Arthunkal and certain other places, but there is no sustained or abundant catch. Fishermen said some of the traditional boats have been getting good catch in spots closely resembling Chakara in the past few days, but it has disappeared as soon as the sea became rough. Sea calm, no fish Some of the ‘ponthu valloms’ (thermocol canoes) have got catches worth Rs.800 to Rs.1,000 at a time, said Albert Gabriel, a fisherman based at Arthunkal here. But there is no indication of large-scale arrival of fish, he said. “The sea has appeared calm in certain areas off Punnapra, but no shoals of fish are visible, says A.K.Baby, another fisherman and president of the Thottapally fishermen development cooperative society. “The term Chakara is misunderstood by many people. It is a formation of mud bank, rich in organic matter, which serves as food for various species of fish. The mud bank has appeared on several stretches, but abundance of fish that used to accompany the phenomenon in the past is absent now, he says. V. Dinakaran, general secretary, Akhila Kerala Dheevara Sabha, expressing a similar view said, “Chakara is mud-filled organic matter being washed away into the sea during monsoon and kept in suspension in certain areas of calm water. Such formations sans fish have appeared in the coastal waters. Fishing operations carried out by foreign vessels and boats from neighbouring States, in violation of the trawling ban, have eroded the fish wealth available to local fishermen. The trawl ban is enforced during different periods along the eastern and western coasts of the country, Mr. Dinakaran said. Scientists have pointed out climate change as the major reason behind the decreasing shoals of fish in mud banks. A cost-benefit study on mud bank fisheries in the Alappuzha coastal waters found out vast differences in the fish species landing in mud banks in 2014 and 2015. The species dominant in 2014 were absent in 2015. The study is a pointer to the decreasing fish wealth at large. Nevertheless, the fishermen have not lost their hope.

2016, The Hindu