Seafood Of India

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Welcome to India's first Exclusive Seafood Portal

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Deep-Sea Tussle: Trawlers Eye Non-Edible Fish, Fisheries Say No

Kerala’s fisheries sector is embroiled in a debate: Should mechanized boats be allowed to catch “pearly hairtail,” a non-edible deep-sea fish used for fishmeal, or stick to their licensed quota of edible species?

Boat owners see opportunity: With around 20 lakh tonnes of pearly hairtail estimated off the Kerala coast, they argue it’s a sustainable way to diversify and relieve pressure on overfished coastal waters. A study by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) backs this, highlighting the species’ short lifespan and spawning cycle.

Fisheries department wary: They raise concerns about differentiating pearly hairtail from the similar, edible ribbonfish, especially juveniles. Recent incidents of misidentification and hefty fines against trawlers caught with juveniles underscore the enforcement challenge.

Kerala’s strict stance: The department emphasizes its commitment to sustainable fishing, citing their third-place ranking in fish landing (6.9 lakh tonnes in 2022-23) as evidence. They view allowing pearly hairtail fishing as a threat to this progress.

Industry cries foul: The All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association argues Kerala’s restrictions put them at a disadvantage compared to neighboring states supportive of pearly hairtail fishing. They estimate Kerala could earn an additional ₹1,000 crore from this resource.

Scientific expertise questioned: CMFRI scientist E.M. Abdussamad counters the “taxonomic ambiguity” argument, suggesting it stems from a lack of expertise in differentiating the species.

Open questions remain: Can stricter enforcement effectively differentiate the two species? Will Kerala budge to economic pressure and potential revenue? Will neighboring states’ practices impact Kerala’s long-term sustainability goals?

This complex issue requires careful consideration, balancing economic opportunity with ecological responsibility. Finding a sustainable solution demands addressing concerns about misidentification, enforcing regulations effectively, and exploring alternative uses for pearly hairtail beyond fishmeal.

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