KOCHI: Kerala’s fish production declined by 15.4 per cent to touch 5.44 lakh tonnes in 2019, from 6.43 lakh tonnes in 2018, raising concerns about depleting marine resources. Sharp decline in the catch of oil sardine and Indian mackerel, the two major resources of the state, was the major factor behind the decline.
The landing of oil sardine, the state’s staple fish, touched a two-decade low of 44,320 tonnes in 2019.
The decline has been attributed to the warming of Arabian Sea due to the El Nino Southern Oscillation effect. The species’ catch in Kerala had recorded an all-time high of 3.9 lakh tonnes in 2012 but dropped to 45,958 tonnes in 2016. It climbed to 1.27 lakh tonnes in 2017, before dropping to 77,093 tonnes in 2018.
As per the data released by Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) , India’s fish landings stood at 35.6 lakh tonnes against 34.9 lakh tonnes in 2018, a marginal increase of 2.1 per cent. Tamil Nadu topped with 7.75 lakh tonnes, replacing Gujarat which slipped to second place with 7.49 lakh tonnes.
The CMFRI data also indicated a worrying trend of a sharp increase in stocks of commercially unimportant fish species. The redtoothed triggerfish, which has little demand in the domestic market and is mostly caught for use in feed mills, dominated the landing with 2.74 lakh tonnes nationally, a marked increase from 72,000 tonnes in 2018.
The availability of Indian mackerel and oil sardine shrunk by 50 per cent. According to CMFRI, there was no breeding of mackerel and oil sardine along Kerala coast during the breeding season this year. The fishing sector also suffered a setback as the number of fishing days reduced due to eight cyclonic storms that disturbed the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. CMFRI director A Gopalakrishnan released the data on Tuesday in the presence of principal scientists T V Sathianandan, Prathibha Rohit, P U Zacharia, P Laxmilatha, E M Abdussamad, C Ramachandran and Josileen Jose.
The Indian fisheries sector incurred a loss of as much as I11,652 crore in 40 days of the lockdown as fishing activities remained suspended. The sector in Kerala suffered a loss of I3,481 crore during the first 60 days of the lockdown. The figures do not include the loss suffered by the export and post harvest sectors.
The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) causes rise in sea-surface temperature and triggers changes in the ocean’s vertical, thermal structure, particularly in coastal regions. According to CMFRI, warming of sea water due to ENSO has depleted stocks of Indian mackerel and oil sardine along the north and northwest Indian ocean. This warming led to a decline in fish breeding of the two species along the coasts of Kerala and Karnataka this year.