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< prev - next > Fisheries KnO 100368_Fishing out the Gene Pool (Printable PDF)
Fishing out the gene pool
Practical Action
In many areas where fishing
forms a traditional activity,
however, the fishing communities
have been able to organize
themselves and create nurture
fisheries. This is based on fishing
as a harvesting activity, where
time is needed for the stocks to
replenish themselves, and where
sowing and nurturing is required,
as well as reaping2. To do this
the local community controls and
limits fishing by controlling hook
size, banning night fishing, and
restricting the kind of bait used.
To achieve and enforce this
control, communities in Kerala
lobbied against the trawlers'
encroachments into their inshore
fishing grounds. The lobby was
effective and a monsoon season
(the spawning season of the
principal commercial species,
according to the artisanal
fishworkers) trawling ban
introduced by the Kerala State
Government in 1989 was a
victory for the organized
fishworkers3. Directly or
indirectly, it achieved an
improvement in recorded
Trading in biodiversity
Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe want all
countries to stopnfishing for herring (Clupea harengus), an
endangered species in European waters. They have jointly
written to CITES, The Convention in International Trade in
Endangered Species, the same organisation that is trying to ban
the ivory trade to save elephants. These countries have proposed
that herring products (eg. Kippers, herring roe, oil, and fishmeal)
be included in Appendix I of CITES, the list of those endangered
species in hose products trade is banned.
The over-intensive fishing of herring in the 1960s and 1970s
severely depleted stocks. Catches in the North Atlantic as a
whole fell from 3.3 million tonnes in 1964 to 1.6 million tonnes
in 1974. Most of the catch is processed into herring products;
only a small amount is sold fresh for human consumption.
Despite a fishing ban from 1977 to 1983, illegal fishing
prevented the full recovery of stocks. During this period many
herring catches were falsely reported ass catches of, for
example, sprats (Sprattus sprattus). Although the ban was
partially successful and larval production subsequently peaked
in 1985, it was short-lived. The production of larvae has halved
in subsequent years. Because of overfishing, several of the races
or groups of North Sea herring are considered to be close to
extinction (eg. the Icelandic Herring). Fishing for herring in the
North Sea, and in other fishing grounds under EC member
states’ jurisdiction, is governed by quota restrictions. But some
argue that the permitted catches are too high and are not
protecting endangered races.
After fourteen years of protection efforts, the genetic diversity of
the stocks is still threatened. Existing fishing controls do not
seem to be effective. It is for this reason that the five countries
wish to see a stronger ban, enforced through controlling the
trade in herring products.
Community organisation
The South Indian fishing communities are responding to the destruction of the ecosystem
and the impoverishment of marine biodiversity by constructing artificial reefs. These efforts
are being supported and studied by local organizations such as the Programme for
Community Organization (PCO) and the South Indian Federation of Fishermen's Societies.
They are providing the basis for discussions on conservation of stocks and the community
management of fishing grounds. The practice of placing rocks fastened to coconut fronds in
the near shore waters to attract fish is probably centuries old. The upsurge of interest in
artificial reefs goes further than aggregating fish, however, and fishworkers are attempting to
rehabilitate the coastal ecosystem by providing artificial fish habitats3. Since 1980 nineteen
artificial reefs have been constructed in the districts of Kanyakumari and Trivandrum using
easily available 'materials of opportunity'. In a recent study of these artificial reefs and other
low-cost concrete and bamboo modular structures, undertaken by PCO, the potential benefits
noted included enhanced community management of fishing grounds and the enhancement
of stocks. While many current initiatives being undertaken by local fishworkers are probably
only a drop in the ocean, they do form the basis for promoting alternative concepts for
marine management. They demonstrate the potential benefits artificial reefs can play in the
replenishment of marine biodiversity through providing protected habitats, and they can also
form the basis for establishing exclusive fishing zones under the control of local
communities4. Representatives from PCO presented a paper to the Fifth International
Conference on Aquatic Habitat Enhancement held at Long Beach, Los Angeles, in November
1991. They were able to discuss the experience of the Kerala fishworkers, and to learn about
relevant developments in other countries which will be of use in south India.