10 February 2014
Source: The New Indian Express
The next four weeks will be crucial for the fishing community in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka as a moratorium on destructive fishing methods of bottom trawling and double trawling in the Palk Bay between Sri Lanka and India will kick in on Monday. The Indian side agreed to a month-long moratorium as part of a formula to address the contentious issue of bilateral fishing rights. That was the main takeaway of the first round of talks convened on Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s initiative between fishermen of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka during their meeting in Chennai on January 27.
Sharing the outcome of the meeting during her address to the State Assembly on February 3, Jayalalithaa said pair trawling and purse seine fishing will not be done by both sides and those violating it could face action. The next round of talks will be held in Sri Lanka, she added.
While pair trawling involves two boats towing one huge net with a wide mouth and a small mesh at the cod end, in bottom trawling, the net goes right up to the sea floor before towing. It is destructive fishing because the net ends up catching not just the target school of fishes but everything else as well — bycatch in fishing jargon — and destroys all marine life in its sweep.
To be fair, overexploitation of marine resources happens not just in the Palk Bay but also across the globe, according to a study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature. It paints a doomsday scenario of fishery resources across the world vanishing by 2048, which itself is an optimistic estimate, according to an official from a department falling under India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He cites a UN report that predicts drastic depletion in fishing resources even by 2028, if destructive fishing practices continue unabated.
“The main reason for the depletion is the bycatch or incidental catch of juvenile fish by bottom and double trawlers that use banned fishing nets. In the process, the habitat of fishes, including coral reefs, are irreversibly damaged,” he points out.
Such bycatch forms a significant proportion of the actual catch and is segregated for use as poultry feed in Tamil Nadu. Elsewhere in the world, dead bycatch is released in mid-sea itself.