Warming, pollution behind drop in fish catch: Experts
Fewer Sardines In Kerala, Hilsa In West Bengal
Kochi: Fish lovers across India should brace themselves for some unappetising news—odds are that those holidaying in Goa, Kochi or Kolkata will see fewer sardines and Hilsa Shad on their seafood platter.
Researchers have found that India’s marine catch has dropped by 5% in 2014 compared to the previous year, resulting in higher retail prices. According to estimates released by Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), the country’s marine landings dropped to 3.59 million tonnes against 3.78 million tonnes in 2013.
Every year 600 to 700 species are landed along the coastal waters of the country and the catch of many popular varieties of fish have dropped. “The catch of oil sardines, which are popular in Kerala, have dropped, so has that of Bombay Duck in Maharashtra and Hilsa Shad in West Bengal,” said Sathianandan T V, head, fisheries resources assessment division, CMFRI. Among the species that registered a drop are ribbon fish, prawns, croakers and cephalopods like squids, octopuses and cuttlefish.
Scientists say changes in ocean climate and increase in marine pollution could be among the causes for the continued drop in fish landings. “Changes in ocean conditions and environment issues are being seen as the common factors. We can’t deny that there is pollution in the coastal waters,” said A Gopalakrishnan, director, CMFRI while releasing the data. Oil sardines accounted for the largest caught species at 5.45 lakh tonnes and Kerala topped in sardine landings across the country.
Still, in Kerala, there was a drop of 92,000 tonnes when compared to last year, though it shot up in Goa recording an all-time high of 1.16 lakh tonnes accounting for 75.6% of the state’s total marine catch.
But the value of marine fish landings in 2014 based on prices at the landing centres touched Rs 31,754 crore, registering an increase of 8.1% over 2013.
CMFRI officials said that at the retail level, the estimated total value was Rs 52,363 crore registering an increase of 12% over 2013. The average price per kilo of fish across varieties at landing centres was Rs 88.65, i.e., a 14.1% increase and retail value of Rs 146.27, an increase of 18.4%. Kerala had the highest realization of prices at landing and retail centres registering a growth of 18.3% and 19.4%, respectively, over 2013.
Things are not different in other places too. Catch of Hilsa Shad off the West Bengal coast dropped drastically from 40,000 tonnes to 3,000 tonnes last year. This was attributed to reduction in mechanised fishing crafts due to non-profitability. The mechanised sector had been targeting the highvalue Hilsa Shad and hence the marked drop in activity has resulted in steep decline of 87% in landings.
VKripa, environment fisheries division head, said they had noticed an increase in jelly fish population near the coast during upwellings.
“The jelly fish eats the eggs of sardines and could be one of the contributor to fall in catch in Kerala.”Of the states along the coastal belt, Gujarat contributed most to marine catch with 7.12 metric tonnes.