Overfishing, change in climate cause dip in catch, Maharashtra, India

Marine fish experts claim that overfishing, habit degradation and climate change have resulted in the decline

Orignially posted at The Asian Age. Republished by SixDegrees on arrangement with author.

Fishermen in Maharashtra may have resumed their activities after the monsoon break, but the state may be looking at a lower fish catch this year. The state has witnessed a drop in its fish catch from 4.5 lakh tonnes in 2002 to 3.41 lakh tonnes in 2014. Marine fish experts claim that overfishing, habit degradation and climate change have resulted in the decline.

Data shared by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) during a workshop held recently showed that marine fish landings in India had been on the rise since 2001 but the figures started declining from 2012. However, Maharashtra has been experiencing a reduction in fish catch ever since 2002.

“When we measure the figures in lakh tonnes, the difference between the catch in 2002 and that in 2014 may not seem too much, but the difference is considerable,” said Dr V.D. Deshmukh, former principal scientist with CMFRI, in Mumbai.

Maharashtra is one of the leading producers of fish in the country and several varieties of commercially important fish like Bombay duck, pomfret, sharks, and penaeid prawns, lobsters and rays are caught off its coastline. Hence, trade pressure often makes fishermen haul out the most that they can from the sea, said Dr Deshmukh. He also said that in most cases, varieties of the popular fish are caught even before they fully mature. The absence of a sufficient number of adult fish further results in fewer instances of breeding, thus leading to a dip in the general fishpopulation.

Dr Deshmukh said, “Global pressure on trade has resulted in excessive fishing and indiscriminate exploitation of juveniles of commercially important fish. Also, the ratio between the number of fishing boats to the amount of fish available has been titling heavily in favour of the boats. As a result, in a bid to increase the number of fish that these boats catch, the fishermen often take to overfishing.”

Apart from overfishing, research undertaken by Dr E. Vivekanandan from the CMFRI has indicated that climate change has also had an impact on the marine fisheries’ production. According to the report released earlier this year, fishermen are able to predict their catch based on current direction and climatic parameters before they enter into the sea. However, the fishermen claim that there were major changes in the climactic parameters that occurred in the last 10 years, especially after the tsunami.

“Wind direction and speed, current and coastal upswelling are the major parameters used by fishermen to predict fishing grounds and other fishing activities. The significant change in these parameters over the last decade has severely affected fish catch,” said Dr Vivekanandan.

Feature photo credit: enjosmith/Flickr photos/reproduced under an Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial

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