Tuesday 21 May 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

New Research Raises Questions on Fishing Ban


New research has shown that the monsoon is not the breeding season for quite a number of popular varieties of table fish. For example, the popular 'Visvonn' or Kingfish breeds mainly in October and November.

On Thursday, the 61-day annual Fishing Ban took effect. From time immemorial, fisherfolk on India's West Coast have pulled out their boats from the water towards the end of May. Fishing re-started only after the monsoon had calmed down — in mid-August — after 'Narali Pournima', which usually coincides with 'Raksha Bandhan'.

This changed after the advent of large mechanised fishing boats, popularly known as 'trawlers' and 'purse-seiners'. These boats, with their deep keeled hulls and powerful motors, could go out to sea even in the monsoon.

As the number of trawlers went up, the overall fish catch started to go down. That is when NGOs started to voice concerns, and the government introduced a 60-day fishing ban, from 15 June to 15 August; the breeding season for fish.

The ban was a success, in that the rate of decline of the overall fish catch slowed, and then stopped. It has been fluctuating since, higher in some years and lower in others.

But the mechanised fishing boat owners protested that they were being deprived of catching the bountiful 'solar sungtam' (solar prawns) season, which lasts only from end-July to mid-August. So the government changed the dates of the fishing ban from 1 June to 31 July.

I am not even for a moment suggesting that this ban be lifted.

But new research has shown that the monsoon is not the breeding season for quite a number of popular varieties of table fish. Researchers Pooja Rathod, Mayuresh Gangal and Chetana Purushottam have collated all the available scientific literature on fish breeding on the west coast of India.

With the guidance and advice of a distinguished panel of animal and marine biologists that includes two Goans — Marine Conservation scholar Dr Aaron Savio Lobo and Dr Nandini Velho, who is an Earth Institute Fellow at the University of Columbia — they have come out with a calendar that indicates in which months popular table fish breed. The breeding months are those in which people should avoid eating the particular fish. Their findings are available on the website http://knowyourfish.org.in/.

And what does their research indicate? The monsoon months are indeed breeding months for a large number of fish, but among popular table fish in Goa, quite a number breed in other months. The 'Bangda' or Indian Mackeral certainly breeds from June to September, but the popular 'Visvonn' or Kingfish breeds mainly in October and November. They recommend that people should avoid eating Kingfish in these months.

Some more surprising details about the breeding seasons of other varieties of popular table fish emerge from their research. 'Paplet' or Silver Pomfret breeds from March to May; that's the time one should avoid eating it. 'Bombil' or Bombay Duck can be eaten through the monsoon, but should be avoided from October to March.

Prawns, too, are not monsoon breeders. While Tiger Prawns should be avoided from April to June and in November-December, they can be eaten during the monsoon. Regular Prawns are to be avoided from September to December, which is their breeding season.

The peak breeding season for 'Chonak' or Barramundi is also October and November. For 'Mori' or Shark, it is March, April and May. For 'Modso' or Cobia, it is October and November. Since a number of these large fish are caught by similar methods like gill nets and hook-and-line, there is a lot of secondary catch of sharks, along with the targeted fish. They recommend therefore, that these fish be avoided during shark breeding season as well.

Though their recommendations are based on the most up-to-date scientific knowledge, new scientific data may emerge. The researchers have promised to review all their recommendations each year and modify them if required. In the meanwhile, the government would do well to carefully evaluate this data and review the state's fish conservation strategy accordingly.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Based on the new data, The Govt. must have a revolving ban on fishing. This year June-July, next year Aug-Sep, and so on. At least we will practice equality in fish protection. All these while, only Bagdes got super protection.


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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.


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