Monday, June 11, 2012

India: Country Faces a Three-Pronged Threat from Overfishing

Koli women sorting seafood. (Photo: Greenpeace/Sudhanshu Malhotra)
A new report by Greenpeace warns that depleting fish stocks and historical neglect of marine conservation are causing three major problems for India: massive job losses, damaged ecosystems and a weaker national GDP.
Released on World Oceans Day, the report, "Safeguard or Squander? Deciding the future of India's Fisheries," states that 90 per cent of India's fish stocks are at or above maximum sustainable levels of exploitation – an idea that contradicts the official statement that there is still scope for fish landings to increase.

"We have reached a tipping point in Indian fisheries and the decision we make now about how to manage and conserve them will define this sector for the coming generations,” said Shri Basudev Acharya, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.

Marine fisheries contribute close to 2 per cent of the national GDP. India's fish exports were worth over USD 2.8 billion in 2010-11, and 45 per cent of this export value comes from marine capture fisheries; the government wants to raise this to 6 billion by 2015.

(L) Koli women selling fish and. (Photo: Sudhanshu Malhotra/Greenpeace) (R) Fresh fish catch. (Photo: Peeyush Sekhsaria/Greenpeace )

T Peter, secretary from National Fishworkers' Forum, believes there is a need for a comprehensive policy that would move towards a sustainable approach to fishing and which involves fishers in decision-making.

"Over the last two decades, the economic and social consequences of the ongoing fisheries decline have been devastating to fishing communities, particularly those practicing medium to small scale non-mechanised and artisanal fisheries. Previously self-sufficient traditional fishing communities are witnessing the destruction of their natural resource base, resulting in poverty and migration to other occupations and other regions," he said.

Areeba Hamid, Greenpeace campaigner, noted that current levels of mechanised fishing are ecologically unsustainable and are not enough to provide work for the millions whose livelihoods depend on non-mechanised fisheries.

Fishing catch and fishing vessel. (Photos: Peeyush Sekhsaria/Greenpeace)

The report also examines the ecological damage to marine biodiversity caused by overfishing as well as by the capacity, intensity and technology used.

Over-capacity leading to over-fishing, an over-reliance on destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawling and ongoing government subsidies for mechanized fisheries instead of more sustainable, employment-generating non-mechanised sector are the main problems, Greenpeace contends.

“This situation has been worsened by rampant pollution, destruction of breeding grounds such as mangroves and estuarine areas, hot water discharge from thermal power plants, industrial effluents, sewage from major urban centres and coastal over development,” the report adds.

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