Over 2,000 mechanised fishing boats and thousands of fishers in Kerala are getting ready to set out to the Arabian Sea at the crack of dawn on Monday, after the 47-day monsoon fishing holiday.

However, fish stock are fast dwindling despite of the monsoon ban on trawling.

Overfishing According to Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary of the All-Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, there around 3,000 mechanised boats operating out of the Kerala coast. Of these, a third comes from Kulachal and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Mangaluru in Karnataka. About 20,000 people are employed on these boats, an average seven on each boat.

The customary monsoon ban on fishing by boats fitted with bottom trawls had begun on June 15. The annual 47-day ban has been in place in Kerala’s waters for more than a quarter century. During this period, only country crafts are allowed to fish. The rationale for the ban is that it is during the monsoon time that the fishes commonly available along the Kerala coast, such as oil sardines and mackerel, breed.

The trawl-fitted boats, which sweep the sea floor, destroy schools of juvenile fish. Various scientific studies have proven the efficacy, though restricted, of the ban. There have been demands for extending the fishing holiday from the current 47 days to 90 days, in a staggered way, in order to help fish resources replenish.

Dwindling stock Poor catch is the biggest crisis faced by the fishing sector in Kerala, one of the most vibrant segments of the country’s marine fishing industry. This is mainly because of global warming, but also because of overfishing and poor resource management. While high-tech equipment and fishing gear make fishing faster, easier and less risky, the sea is unable to deliver enough supplies.

Kalappurackal points out that in the past year because of the fall in the catch, the boats had stayed away from fishing for a total of around six months. In his view, extension of the fishing holiday was not the answer to the dwindling of the resources.

He feels that extreme pollution of the coastal waters, shrinking of the backwater lakes such as Vembanad, heavy fall in the arrival in the sea of nutrients carried by rivers and backwater streams were some of the reasons for the disappearance of fishing grounds along Kerala.

Meanwhile, the resumption of fishing after the monsoon ban will immediately reflect on the market. As the fish arrivals increase, prices, which peaked during the ban period, will fall. There will be fewer arrivals of fish from other places, such as Mangaluru.