The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change envisages to celebrate the World Environment Day 2023 with a thrust on the Mission LiFE. The concept of LiFE, i.e., Lifestyle for Environment was introduced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, at the World Leaders’ Summit in Glasgow at the 2021 UNFCCC COP26, when he gave a clarion call to rekindle a global pursuit to adopt sustainable lifestyle and practices. Mass mobilisation across the country on LiFE are being organized in the run-up to the celebrations.

The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) has taken yet another initiative towards promoting the themes of Mission LiFE at the Thoothukudi fishing harbour in the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve. Thoothukudi Fishing Harbour is one of the largest and busiest fishing harbours in Tamil Nadu. The harbour can host more than 250 mechanised trawlers.

Through this campaign, NCSCM scientists sensitised about 60 fishermen and net menders about the themes of Mission LiFE and the significance of practising responsible and sustainable fishing, hygienic fish handling and processing, and raising awareness about energy and water conservation. These initiatives, including the retrieval and recycling of any abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), were emphasised since a single ALDFG can remain in the sea for up to 600 years before decomposing. NCSCM scientists highlighted the threats of plastic pollution, particularly microplastics in the marine environment, as well as their bioaccumulation in the food chain.

The fishermen were sensitised to practice waste segregation at home and on board while fishing. As part of the sensitization, NCSCM staff explained to the fishing community the need for management strategies to control fishing-related litter (FRL), encouraging fishermen to bring back the FRL to shore-based material recovery facilities (MRFs) and reception facilities (RFs).

Collection of end-of-life (EOL) fishing gear, towards extended producer responsibility (EPR), at fishing harbours helps to close the plastic loop (circular economy) in the marine environment. This “fishing for litter” practice is in line with the “Clean India, Clean Seas,” and “Swachch Bharat Mission” initiatives. Further, NCSCM scientists emphasised that such actions can enhance the value chain of FRL, which serves as a source of income during the fishing ban period. Additionally, it was suggested that during the fishing ban, the fishing community can utilise fishery by-products for additional income and livelihood diversification.

This event taught the fishermen in a simple manner about the sensitivity of the marine habitat, climate change, and the need to live in harmony with nature. At the harbour, LiFE themes were displayed through posters and pamphlets promoting sustainable, environmentally friendly lifestyles. By actively engaging in the Life pledge and signature campaign, the fishing community expressed their support for the LiFE mission…