This year in June, locals at Navapur, Mumbai found an Olive Ridley turtle that washed ashore. They tried releasing it back to the sea but it washed ashore again. It was then rescued and taken to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, where the turtle is currently being looked after. Experts believe the turtle may have been washed ashore due to trawling operations in the sea.
What is trawling? Trawling, or deep sea fishing, is a method of fishing, where boats use heavy fishing gears (like huge nets) and drag them to scrape the bottom bottom of the ocean floor to catch fish.
Why is it so controversial?
Irreparable damage to marine life:
Seas and oceans are marine biodiversity hotbeds. These water bodies, according to studies, contain around 500,000 to 5,000,000 species that we are yet to discover! And because these habitats are home to a rich variety of marine animals, fishing industries have begun exploiting them. According to experts, turtles and other animals get caught in these nets or even get hit by trawler propellers, and
die. The injuries make them too weak to swim against ocean currents, which is why they might get washed ashore. The large metal plates and rubber wheels attached to a trawling net scrape the floor of the ocean and smash everything into smithereens. Imagine what happens to a beautiful, rare coral! Many trawlers are out to catch a particular type of fish. So if the nets catch a rare squid or an orange roughy, they toss them back into the ocean by which time, they are already dead. Throwing marine ecosystems out of balance: Imagine what will happen when a herbivore is removed from the food chain. It will affect the rest of the food chain, right? Similarly, when a particular of specie is eliminated by trawling, it throws the rest of the chain out of gear, creating an imbalance in the marine ecosystem.
Direct effect on humans: Thousands of farmers around the coast depend on fishing for their livelihood. But when trawling operations grab a huge chunk of fish, there is nothing left for these people to fish for! In September this year, fishermen in Mannar district of Sri Lanka complained to their government that 500 Indian trawlers had destroyed their fishing grounds when they themselves had to get a permit from the Defence Ministry for fishing.
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
■ The Kerala government, since 1988, has enforced a ban on trawling for a month and a half at the onset of the
monsoons. Why? Because that’s when most fish reproduce.
■ In May this year, the Central Institute of Fisheries and Technology developed a new kind of trawl called the CIFT semi-pelagic trawl system. This net does not scrape the bottom of the floor but floats at some distance above it, thereby avoiding crushing everything in its path.
■ In Gujarat, by-catch (fish caught apart from the ones trawlers need) is not discarded but used for fish meal and manure. However, these measures need to be widely-implemented. All states must ensure a monsoon ban and promote legitimate fishing techniques that prevent over-fishing and destruction of the marine ecology.