Goa extends fishing ban so fish stays on plate



Panaji: In order to ensure that fish continues to be available in the quintessential Goan thali (plate), it has now been decided to extend the ban on fishing in Goa's sea waters to 70-75 days, as the government steps up effort to stave off a fish famine.

Goa Chief Minister Parrikar said that fishermen, who use traditional means to harvest fish, could be compensated by the state government for not being allowed to enter into the sea during the proposed extended ban period, which currently is 45 days.

"To maintain the fish catch, a minimum of 70-75 days total fishing ban will have to be maintained. We can also give the traditional fishermen compensation in order not to go out to sea," Parrikar said, adding that it was imperative to maintain the carrying capacity of the seas off Goa and stave off fish famine.

Parrikar has also warned that the unit of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) stationed in Goa would be used to ensure that trawlers from the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra do not fish in the state's already fish-depleted waters.

Currently, Goa bans fishing from June 15 to July 31 for a period of 45 days. But the ban applies only to heavy duty mechanised fishing, while traditional fishermen are still allowed to venture out into the sea.

According to the state government's Economic Survey (ES) report, the state's fish haul has reduced drastically from 1.03 lakh tonnes in 2005 to 80,680 tonnes in 2009 from a peak of a whopping 9.9 lakh tonnes in 2004-05.

"With the total fish production in the state crossing maximum sustainable yield (MSY), there is a need to restrict the fishing efforts in the coastal waters of the state," the report stated.

"With the fish and fishing product decreasing day by day, all efforts are being made to provide the infrastructure needed at the landing centres so as to minimise the port harvest losses," it adds.

A leading marine biologist has already warned of a fish famine and flight of fish in the seas off Goa.

Leading marine biologist Baban Ingole, a chief scientist at the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), has warned that a combination of the state's burgeoning fishing trawler industry, pollution and climate change was resulting in the fish being driven off the Goa coast, resulting in a fish famine in the region.

"It is both, due to natural causes like climate change, decreased dissolved oxygen (in the seas) as well man-made. Like in the case of overfishing, increased level of pollutants, etc.," Dr Ingole said.

Popular fish varieties like mackerel, sardines and prawns would be the first to exit the marine habitat off the state, which has the Arabian sea to the west.

Goa has a 105-km long coastline, along which nearly 1,400 trawlers hunt for fish, mainly prawns, sardines, mackerels, king fish, tuna, among other marine products.

PTI