Even as the High Court order imposing curbs on country craft and small-scale fishers during the monsoon trawl ban period has sent artisanal fishermen into a tizzy, citizen scientists attached to a marine research organisation here have highlighted unsustainable fishing practices in the traditional sector that pose a threat to fish stocks, especially juveniles of commercially important species.

Friends of Marine Life, a local NGO, has called for wide-ranging discussions on the impact of destructive practices like ‘thattumadi’ and ‘light fishing’ on the marine ecology.

“The sustainable and environment-friendly methods followed by fish workers along the Thiruvananthapuram coast for generations have given way to unhealthy tendencies in the recent past,” says Robert Panipilla, chief coordinator, FML.

A destructive method pertains to the recent modifications made to thattumadi, a pair fishing system that uses a net between two catamarans to haul in the catch. The popular method is used by fishermen to net species like ribbon fish, anchovies, false trevally, barracuda, croaker, Indian salmon and squid that have good demand in the local market.

But of late, the FML points out, fishers are using bigger nets of smaller mesh size to scoop up juvenile fish in large numbers during the monsoon trawl ban period. “They are also using echo sounders to locate fish breeding centres and powerful lights to attract the fish,” says Mr. Panipilla.

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