Cuttlefish fall prey to fishermen's greed

DC decides to allow aggregating method till January, 2012

When the portals of global market opened for India in late 1990s in a big way even a not so sought after fish like ‘cuttlefish’ (Ceptholopods), which is known as ‘Kappe Bandase’ in local language, Tulu gained importance as this fish started having huge demand in European countries and Japan.

Today with the export costs souring higher day by day, fishermen have started using ruthless methods to capture these fishes without sparing even a second thought over the future. This restless fishing has started having impact on the population of this export variety of fish already.

Fishermen from other states where fishing using aggregating devices have been reportedly banned are venturing into coastal belt. November to January is the breeding season for cuttlefishes and the fishermen strategically dump decomposable material from coconut tree (like the shells, coir etc) about 30 km from the shore allowing it to settle over 15 days. When the substance starts decaying, it attracts matured cuttlefishes, which are pulled up to meet the global demand. Unfortunately, most of these matured cuttlefish will be bearing eggs in them.

Though the fishermen from other states have been using this method since a long time, the reduction in quantity and size of cuttlefish caused worry among local fishermen.

The issue created pandemonium in Udupi coastline off late causing minor problems between local and fishermen from other states. Udupi district administration intervening on time, asked Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) to submit a report on the issue.

The report clearly states that the fishing aggregation method used attracts only mature cuttlefish and hence the breed of cuttlefish will be threatened if the method of fishing continues. Further, in this method, the cuttlefishes come to the decomposed mass only for breeding and not in search of food.

Going by records, the exports of cuttlefish have shot up drastically.

In 2007-08, 648 tonnes of whole cuttlefish was exported from the coastal belt costing about Rs 780 lakh. This increased to a romping 2831.60 tonnes in 2009-10 earning Rs 3411.38 lakh. In 2010-11 the quantity exported came down to 661.81 tonnes earning revenue of Rs 762.52, showing decline in cuttlefish catch itself. The landing and export of this variety is almost the same because there is near to zero domestic market.

Taking the report of CMFRI seriously, the district administration has decided to allow the aggregating method of fishing till January, 2012 and bring in blanket ban on the method. Further, the DC has reportedly asked the local fishermen to be vigilant to check such fishing.

“We expect everyone to abide by the order,” said DC Dr M T Reju to Deccan Herald.
With this, one has to wait and watch whether enforcement of the order will take place successfully. It may be recalled that the coast in Mangalore was earlier facing same problem, which was tackled by the fishermen unitedly.

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