Sunday , 16 June 2019
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Fish May Go Off Goan Plate

THE fishermen led by Goencho Ramponkarancho Ekvott, who blocked inland navigation on the rivers Mandovi and Sal by causing a blockade with trawlers and canoes for two days to force the state government to ban LED-assisted fishing, might have called off their agitation, but they might revive it if the government does not take action on its order. The fishermen had been asking the government for a long time to ban LED-assisted fishing as such fishing uses LED lights which cause a widespread glow creating illusion of daylight among the fish and thus deceiving them to come closer to the surface of water. According to trade reports, there are about 60 trawlers that are equipped with LED lights. The owners of these trawlers have been motivated to use LED lights as it gets them a catch several times higher than a trawler not fitted with LED lights can get. One estimate is that the catch could be ten times more than the usual. This amounts to overfishing which threatens to give diminishing catches in the future, and that is what the fishermen community of Goa is worried about.

Why did the state government have to wait for so long to ban usage of LED lights on motorized fishing craft? The fisheries department issued an official order, signed by director Sharmila Monterio prohibiting usage of LED lights for fishing after the Goencho Ramponkarancho Ekvott blocked navigation on the Mandovi and Sal rivers.  However, the fisheries department must not stop at issuing the ban order.  The first step they have to take is to check the 60-odd motorized craft that are allegedly involved in the illegal fishing and force them to remove the fish attracting LED lights from their boats. Fisheries Minister Avertano Furtado assured the Goencho Ramponkarancho Ekvott that “We issued directions to impound the trawlers fitted with such LED lights. We are taking all the measures to ensure that LED lights are removed.”  The question that arises is: does the fisheries department have the vessels, men and arms to stop LED-assisted fishing? Will Captain of Ports be able to provide effective assistance to the fisheries department in this task?

One good thing that can happen with the ban on LED fishing off Goa coast is that pressure will build up on the Karnataka government to issue a similar order in that state. Thousands of fishermen of Uttar Kannada have been campaigning, much like Goa’s fishermen, for a ban on LED fishing. They allege that there are at 80 boats using the LED fishing technique operating off Uttar Kannada coast. Already, the fishermen’s body of Uttar Kannada has put up a demand that the Karnataka government ban LED-assisted fishing and confiscate the boats and impose serious penalties on the owners of those trawlers, because, as one of their association leaders said, “The sea will have no fish If LED light fishing technique continues for another few years.”

However, unlike Uttar Kannada, the fisheries department of Goa has still not banned ‘bull trawling’ in which a net with its ends tied to two big craft is drawn for a long distance to sweep a large quantity of fish off Goa coast. Not long ago, about 20,000 fishermen families that rely upon conventional fishing or small-scale fishing in Uttara Kannada set up an agitation demanding a ban on bull trawling. Some unscrupulous trawler owners had started bull trawl fishing in Uttara Kannada district two years ago. Making a large haul of fish they aroused the hostility of the conventional fishermen and there were violent clashes between the bull trawler operators and the conventional fishermen. Ultimately, the Uttar Kannada district administration had to ban bull trawling. The fisheries department of Goa should ban bull trawling too, like LED lights technique, soonest, as the local fishermen have demanded. Action is what they demand; else, the danger is the mass of fishermen will get into a confrontation with the operators of LED fishing and bull trawling. It is out of sheer desperation that the Goencho Ramponkarancho Ekvott blocked inland navigation. Their livelihood is at stake. If LED fishing and bull trawling continues uncontrolled the fish population will decline, leaving little for the thousands of fishermen not using LED lights and bull trawling. Fish prices are already hitting the roof. A fish famine caused by LED and bull fishing would lead to disappearance of fish from the plate of the Goans. The state government must intervene effectively to stop LED fishing and bull trawling right away.

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