5 Coast Guard boats to keep check on destructive fishing techniques

PANAJI: In order to curb the over-exploitation of fish stocks in the state, the fisheries department, in collaboration with the Coast Guard, will keep a strict vigil on the state waters, which are being exploited by fishing boats and trawlers from other states, causing serious damage to the marine life in Goa. Five Coast Guard boats have been deployed to scan the waters.

Since 2008, marine catch in the state has depleted to an alarming stage, while the catch in inland waters like rivers, ponds and estuaries is gradually improving. The fishermen complain that the fisheries department has remained reluctant to adopt a policy towards standardising the motor engines of the trawlers, which could help save the young fish and allow it to multiply.

According to the local fishermen, trawlers and boats from other states and equipped

with high-powered engines and sophisticated fishing gears are destroying the spawning and feeding habitats of marine environment in Goa. They complain that the fishing nets’ mesh size rule is not being enforced properly and these outside trawlers use nets with thin mesh due to which young fish is trapped thus destroying hordes of juvenile fish. They said that the objective of regulating the mesh size is to have a sustainable yield in the long term, protect the younger fish and allow it to multiply. Trawlers from other states also indulge in bull trawling (joint operations with thick nets by two trawlers), which affects the seabed thus destroying the flora and fauna. According to the fishermen, this method should be stopped immediately.

"We can’t amend policies when a new engine is fitted to fishing boats," said the director of Fisheries, Mr Nandkishore Verlekar. He further said, "With the help of Coast Guard we have deployed five boats to check bull trawling by boats from other states entering the Goan waters. The problem of shortage of fisheries inspectors to check the mesh size of the nets will soon be solved, he said adding that the fishing industry would soon see better days ahead.

Mr Verlekar said a five-km ban from the state’s shores is enforced restricting fishing. Additionally, a 45-day ban during the monsoon season is also enforced allowing the fish to breed. He requested the local fishermen to abide by the Marine Fishing Regulation Act and said that the rest would follow suit.

Destructive technology used for fishing is the main reason for a fall in the catch, said fishermen, Mr Dilip Karkar, Mr Clifton D’Souza and others. The China-make engines provide tremendous speed to the boats thus leaving no chance for the fish to escape and they are trapped in the nets. Ultimately, the young fish are destroyed. Not allowing them to grow means disallowing the fish to multiply, said the fishermen.

According to Mr D’Souza, the high-powered engine boats have over-exploited the marine stock by nearly 75 per cent, which means the stock is now below the ‘marine sustainable yield.’ He cited an example that in Europe and elsewhere, efforts were being made to cut the fleet capacity, but in Goa it seems to be increasing.

The fishermen said that a couple of years ago, they could get four to five tonnes of ribbon fish on a single trip, but today, in spite of being at the peak of season (November to January) the catch is barely 300 kg ribbon fish in a single trip. This is sad news for Goan fishermen. In the past, Goa would boast of about 20 varieties with the main species being macarels, ribbon fish, squids, cuttel fish, king fish and sardines among others.