Tourism is pushing Goa towards 'fish famine'

A brazen overkill by the state's burgeoning fishing trawler industry, pollution and climate change have formed a potent combination which might soon push Goa and other coastal areas towards a 'fish famine', warn exerts.

Baban Ingole, chief scientist at the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), says strict implementation of fishing norms and thorough observance of the no-fishing ban is needed to ensure that the fish population, which is under constant onslaught off the coast of Goa, can be restored.

"It is both due to natural causes like climate change, decreased dissolved oxygen (in the seas) as well as manmade. Like in the case of overfishing, increased level of pollutants, etc," Ingole, a marine biologist and a deputy director at the Goa-based oceanography institute, told IANS in an interview.

Ingole also said the famine was specifically affecting those breeds of fish which were in high demand in the state, where a lot of the marine harvest is diverted towards tourism and export.

"It is related to some of the quality fish which are in high demand and are sensitive to environmental changes," Ingole said, calling for "regulations for fishing on the size and seasons, with strict monitoring" so that the dwindling fish breeds are allowed to restore their populations.

The scientist said tourism is one of the factors taking Goa towards a fish famine scenario. "Demand for fish is increasing every day, both due to domestic consumption and tourism and the supply is surely reducing," he said.

Ingole also said Goa should look to aqua culture to counter the threat of fish famine.
"Some of the species like shrimps, mussels and  oysters from aquaculture are already in high demand. If the technology is developed/extended for marine fish culture, Goans need not alter their food pattern.

"However Goans may have to pay more for fish in future," he said.Goa has seen a gradual decline in its fish catch over the last decade.But state fisheries director S.C. Vernekar said there was "no scientific reason why the fish harvesting has taken a downturn".

While the catch in the last financial year was 88,771 tonnes, the number slipped down to 80,687, a dip of more than 8,000 tonnes this year.  In 2005, Goa had netted over 100,000 tonnes.

There are nearly 1,200 fishing trawlers in Goa - a large number of which are owned by politicians or their kin, who have been accused of blatantly violating the fishing ban that begins June 15 and ends July 30, coinciding with the fish breeding season.

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