Friday , 20 April 2018

Drastic fall in Goa’s marine fish haul

In spite of stringent precautions including the order to ban the use of LED lights for fishing in territorial waters of Goa, the drop in the annual marine fish haul as experienced by the state in recent times continues, and is now more than a matter of concern.
The provisional figures of the marine fish catch, during the first ten months of 2016 – from January to October – informs that a total of 56,128 tonnes of fish of various varieties was caught in the state, as against 1,08,240 tonnes of fish caught during the twelve months of 2015. In comparison, the inland fish haul in the state during the same period – January 2016 to October 2016 – has been reduced marginally, as compared to that during the previous year.
Furthermore, the haul of sardines (Tarlo) – one of the main staple fish of Goa – has also been reduced considerably. In 2014, a total of 80,849 tonnes of sardines were caught in Goan territorial waters as per the statistics of the department of fisheries, which dropped to 57,270 tonnes in 2015, and between January 2016 and October 2016, the sardine haul went absurdly down to 7,829 tonnes.
The government, during the 2016 monsoon session of the state legislative assembly, had admitted about the fast depleting fish population in the Goan marine waters, and stated that one of the measures taken to arrest the drop in the fish catch is the decision to ban LED fishing.
The marine fish haul provisional figures of the DoF, for the first ten months of 2016 also informs that the prawns (Sungtam) caught during the period amounted 5,488 tonnes as compared to 9,012 tonnes caught during the year 2015. The statistics further informs that Soles (Lepo) caught during the first ten months of the last year amounted 2,132 tonnes, in contrast to 4,487 tonnes caught year before last.
The provisional figures pertaining to the inland fish catch, for the first ten months of 2016 showed such total fish haul standing at 3,286 tonnes as against 4,648 tonnes during the twelve months of 2015.
The 61-day fishing ban period strictly followed in the state during the monsoon, also seems to have done little to salvage the situation, with the experts claiming that the practice of indiscriminate fishing in the waters off Goa would eventually lead to a fish famine.
Dr Aaron Lobo, the noted Goan marine conservation practitioner, reacting to the drop in the annual fish haul in Goa said that there could be various reasons for the same. “For one, too many fishermen chasing too few fish could be responsible for it,” he observed, maintaining that all the fish haul downloaded at Goan fishing jetties like say at Malim, at Cutbona or at Khariwada may not necessarily be arriving from the waters off Goan coast, but from as far as the waters along the Gujarat coast; a scenario which does not reflect the actual “fish catch situation” in the state.
“And then there are other reasons too like pollution of marine ecology, in turn leading to poor fish production; and the use of LED lights during fishing as it used to be before its subsequent ban,” Dr Lobo stated, observing that the use of LED lights or even using smaller mesh-sized nets, which are fishermen’s adaptive mechanism, prove to be very damaging to the aquatic life.
“In fact, such a situation is not only existing in Goa but also exists along the entire Asian coast,” the noted Goan marine conservation practitioner maintained, stating that fish is a part of the cultural identity of Goa and it is really sad to see reduction in its population. “In fact, the stakeholders in the fishing industry including the fishermen should now see the real need to take steps against this trend, which has harmed the aquatic life,” he concluded.
Incidentally, most of the fish catch from Goa goes into processed/ packaged foods, including tuna which are not consumed by most of the Goans. The department statistics informs that a total of 40,365 tonnes of marine fish products were exported from Goa in the year 2014, valued at Rs 51,195 lakh.
It is really distressing to see fish, an integral part of the staple food of Goa being seriously affected, even though the department of fisheries is making all efforts to promote fish culture in the state including holding annual fish festival and harvesting fish from cages in the open sea, presently practised in the Canacona taluka.

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