Fishermen along India’s western coast are now using square mesh nets and practicing sustainable marine fishing. It is earning them higher incomes, protecting marine biodiversity and paving the way for policy change in one of the country’s most important fishing coastlines.
As the first rays of the sun began to brighten the skies of Malvan, one could spot the faint outlines of a trawler against the tangerine backdrop. The day had just begun, but the seafarers had already ventured deep into the treacherous seas. As the trawler braved its way through the choppy seas, Shelestian Fernandes stood tall on the deck, overlooking the sea, narrating his story as a fisherman. “The times were much tougher when I had a smaller boat,” he said. Today he is the owner of a trawler, a reliable crew and several fishing gadgets which has made his job easier.
Highlights of this story:
- India is the second largest producer of fish in the world, employing over 14 million people in fishing and aquaculture.
- Partnership with the Government of Maharashtra, aims to demonstrate that biodiversity conservation of coastal areas and sustainable livelihoods can go hand in hand.
- The partnership brought in technical expertise from the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, introducing the square mesh net in the cod end of trawl gears in Sindhudurg.
- Over 300 trawlers have already adopted more sustainable fishing practices like use of square mesh nets.
- The new technology has significantly increased the monthly income of fisherfolk because of diesel has declined.
- Maharashtra’s Fisheries Department has now issued an order proposing the mandatory use of square mesh nets for all 17,000 trawlers in the region.
Within 12 fathoms of the shore, the trawler began to slow down, and the crew cast the net into the water. The net was then spread out on the deck for the crew to have a good look at the catch for the day. They rejoiced at the catch, especially the Silver Pomfret, which was the coveted prize for the day. The distinctive feature about the catch was that every single fish was big and of a marketable size, with not a single juvenile or baby fish in sight. “We owe it to the square mesh net,” they said, “for sparing the juvenile fish for later when they are worth more than what they are now.”
The square mesh net was introduced in Sindhudurg region through a partnership between the Government of Maharashtra and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which aims to demonstrate that biodiversity conservation of coastal areas and sustainable livelihoods can go hand in hand. The partnership is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The partnership brought in technical expertise from the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, working closely with local fisherfolk to introduce the square mesh net in the cod end of trawl gears in Sindhudurg. Met with initial skepticism in this important fish landing centre, the initiative has gone a long way in becoming something that fishermen have embraced in their journey to sustainable marine fishing. Since 2015, every trawler in the district now uses square mesh nets.