Odisha may ban catching under-sized fish

The state has also banned use of purse seine nets, gill nets to protect the baby fish, particularly the Hilsa 

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Tuesday 23 July 2019
A view of fishing harbour at Paradip, Odisha
A view of fishing harbour at Paradip, Odisha A view of fishing harbour at Paradip, Odisha

The Government of Odisha is contemplating to ban capture of fish under minimum legal size (MLS), to replenish fish stock in the sea, according to an official from the state’s department of fisheries.

“Indiscriminate exploitation of large amount of juvenile fish is one of the reasons behind the depletion of fish stock in the sea,” Pratap Rout, the joint director of the department of marine fisheries told Down To Earth.

Earlier, fishing trawlers used to discard trash fish, juvenile fish and non-edible fish. But, a surge in demand for fish that are not fully grown by the shrimp and poultry seed factories have triggered their exploitation. This leads to wanton destruction of fish resources, which is quite alarming, Rout said.

“To protect the baby fish, particularly the Hilsa, we have also banned use of purse seine nets, gill nets and zero mesh nets (less than half inch in size) in the state,” Rout said.

Due to excessive fishing, particularly of Hilsa of less than nine inches or 23 cm, Hilsa production is under threat. 

“Unlike other fish, Hilsa's peculiar habitat makes it impossible to breed it artificially through aquaculture,” Rout said.

An adult Hilsa swims several kilometres from sea to freshwater for spawn and returns to saline water. Its eggs hatch in freshwater and then flow downstream into the sea during June to August — the monsoon season.

The newly hatched Hilsas, while moving towards the sea, get caught in gill nets at river mouths. 

The state fisheries department has recently discussed with many fishermen and convinced them not to catch juvenile Hilsa at the river mouths, Rout said, adding that the department has also put officials on high alert to stop Hilsa fishing.

A 2018 study showed the Hilsa is seeing a steady decline in production due over-exploitation and current fishing practices. The decline can have major financial implications for the fishermen.

To save the seafood industry, the government should enact law and regulation on the catching of MLS of fish, Rabindra Tripathy one of the seafood exporters in Odisha, told DTE.

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