MORE VESSELS, FEWER FISH. IS THERE A CATCH?

The Kerala State Government on Monday announced a 52-day trawling ban starting June 9.  The seasonal ban, aimed at regenerating marine life, will last till July 31.  Does it mean that after July 31, would our fishermen have more fishes in their nets?

The question becomes relevant in the backdrop of a new analysis of global fishing data which confirms that though the world’s fishing fleet doubled in size during the last 65 years, there is less catch.  To be precise, the catch fell by more than 80%. The study by researchers from the University of Tasmania and CSIRO published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the global fishing fleet grew from 1.7 million vessels in 1950 to 3.7 million in 2015.

The analysis points out that despite improved technology and motorization modern fishing vessels take only one fifth of the catch per unit of effort (CPUE) compared to the catch achieved by 1950s fishing fleet.  In other words, it means more and more fishing vessels are chasing fewer fish. The fishing fleet in Asia has witnessed dramatic increase in the size of the fishing fleet since 1950s, particularly in the number of motorized fishing boats.  Fisheries scientists use a measure of catch per unit of effort (CPUE) to assess the fisheries management and well-being of fish stocks.

This measure paints a dark picture of the fast depleting state of ocean’s resources.  What is more disturbing is the researchers’ forecast.  They expect further one million vessels on the water by 2050, accelerating the average engine power of the global fleet. These changes, the researchers caution will further challenge the sustainable use of fisheries resources in the coming years.  The study concludes, stressing the need for additional management measures to ensure sustainability of marine resources.

Notwithstanding the overexploitation of oceanic resources, fishermen may net more fish when the 52-day trawling ban ends.  But, we should remember that the gain can only be temporary.  That is another reason, why sustainable aquaculture is the need of the hour.

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