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Study into weakening `chakara' occurrence in Kerala

Our Bureau

Kochi , Oct. 3

`CHAKARA' or mud bank formations have become a rarity in Kerala and when sighted, they are of weak intensity and recur very infrequently. In earlier times, such mud bank formations were quite frequent, bringing rich and bounteous harvest to the numerous fishermen living along Kerala's extensive coastline.

After it conducted a series of studies in 1976, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute has now embarked on a major study to trace the root causes of the weak intensity and infrequent nature of this natural phenomenon. The study attempts to update its information base on the mud bank phenomenon after its pioneering studies undertaken over 25 years ago.

One principal reason attributed to the weak intensity and poor frequency of the phenomenon is the missing links in mud bank formation. Earlier, mud banks were frequently found all across the coast from Kollam to Thrissur. Now, there are several missing links in this chain.

Another notable factor is that character and content of the seas has changed dramatically during the last 25 years. The changing pattern of the Indian seas is also believed to have contributed greatly to low intensity and lesser frequency of mud bank formation along the Kerala coast, a report by the Marine Products Export Development Authority has said.

Scientists have now developed new tools to access the changing character of the sea. The multi-disciplinary investigation conducted by CMFRI between 1971 and 1976 had shown that mud bank areas were highly productive at the primary and secondary levels, though the bottom fauna in general had shown low intensity in the mud banks. The rich fauna provided equally rich catches to the fishermen of Kerala coast.

The earlier study was mainly confined to aspects such as types of mud banks and their causes for formation, including the source of mud, psycho-chemical properties, the hydrography, primary and secondary productivity, the benthic organisms, the current system and fish and fisheries of mud bank.

The sudden switching over of the fishermen from traditional crafts and system to mechanised fishing gear has contributed to the heavy pollution of the sea. The operation of larger ships and greater frequency along shipping lines, industrial pollution and dumping of wastes have also contributed to this problem. Though there is a direct correlation between trawling and pollution, the linkages are yet to be scientifically established. After 1998, Kerala's territorial waters have not witnessed a full swing mud bank formation.

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