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Marine Fisheries

 The coast of Kerala constitutes approximately 10 percent of India’s total coastline which provide opportunities in traditional fishing in inshore waters from ages. The coastline of Kerala, considered as the  Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which extends up to 200 nautical miles far beyond the continental shelf offers lucrative fishery.

The Southwest coastal (SWC) has certain unique features that influence the fishery fluctuations of the important commercial species to a great extent. The area is subjected to two monsoons viz. the south-west monsoon (Edvapathi) and the north-east monsoon (Thulavarsham). The southwest monsoon coincides with the period of upwelling and phytoplankton bloom, which results in a large number of fish and crustaceans in the area. The maximum utilization of this continental shelf is only in 50m depth ie. around 22 km from the coastline.

South – west monsoon coupled with northwesterly winds and the oceanic currents cause upwelling along the coast brings the nutrient rich deep waters to the surface, which flourishes the primary production and followed by a good fishery. Kerala coast have major fisheries of the elasmobranches, cat fish, shrimps, cuttle fish, sardines, anchovilla, saurida & saurus, perches, sciaenids, mackerels, ribbon fish, seer fish, tunis, prawn, anchovies, soles, sharks, rays, etc. Kerala ranks first in marine fish production of India forming nearly 25% (average 5.75 lakh tonnes) of the total annual production. Currently the annual export of marine products from the state yields to the nation a foreign exchange of Rs. 1,100 crores. 

There has been spectacular growth in the marine fisheries sector of the state due to fisheries friendly government policies, well developed harvest and post harvest infrastructure and increased demand for seafood both in the domestic and export markets. Kerala has been in the forefront in absorbing innovative and new technologies in fishing practices and adoption of these technologies has led to marine fisheries to take a complex structure.

The growing demand resulted in fishing intensification, extension of fishing grounds, increase in overall length, fish holding capacity of the trawlers, fishing effort in terms of fishing hours through multi-day fishing by the mechanized sector and enhanced fishing operations by the motorized sector especially the ring seiners. The intensification of mechanized fishing, perceived as a threat to the sustenance of traditional fisheries sector and resource sustainability, culminated in the regulation of mechanized fishing activities through the Kerala Marine Fisheries Regulation Act 1980, and thereby enforced a ban on bottom trawling during the monsoon season since 1988.

And also the introduction of ban on trawling coincided with introduction of the highly efficient mass harvesting gear, namely the ringseine, by the traditional motorised sector, which resulted in a quantum leap in the total pelagic fish production. In the context of globalization of trade, growing demand for seafood, enormous pressure on the resources and increased awareness of ecosystem-based management and eco-labeling, there is an urgent need for developing a management regime based on the principles of responsible fishing for ensuring livelihood security, resource sustainability, economic efficiency and ecosystem integrity.

Fishing industry which has grown substantially in the last four decades with the continuous intensification of fishing effort, contributes significantly to economic, social and nutritional well being of the people.

Major technological advancements in fishing crafts and gears during the past four decades of Kerala are

  • developments in craft technology  and mechanization of propulsion, gear and catch handling
  • introduction of synthetic gear materials
  • developments in acoustic fish detection and satellite-based remote sensing techniques
  • advances in electronic navigation and position fixing equipment
  • awareness of the need for responsible fishing to ensure sustainability of the resources, protection of the biodiversity and environmental safety and energy efficiency.

Major technological changes that have taken place in the capture fisheries of Kerala are the

  • Introduction and popularization of synthetic fishing gear materials.
  • Introduction of trawling in mid1950s
  • Improvement in efficiency and diversification of trawls, purse seines, gillnets and lines, for mechanized sector.
  • Expansion of fishing grounds for harvesting deep sea fishing for deeps sea prawns, lobsters and cephalopods.
  • Continuous improvement in size, endurance, installed engine power, winch capacities, fish-hold, freshwater and fuel capacities of mechanized trawlers to enable multi-day fishing, since mid 1980s.
  • Improvement in size, endurance, installed engine power, fish-hold, freshwater and fuel capacities of mechanized gillnetters/liners to enable multi-day, distant water fishing.
  • Adoption of modern technologies such as echo sounder and GPS in a wider scale over the last decade.
  • Motorization of traditional fishing crafts and expansion in fishing grounds
  • Improvement of traditional fishing units, in terms of craft modernization, gear materials, gear efficiency and dimensions.
  • Introduction of ring seines in commercial fishing in 1986
  • Displacement of traditional boat seines by ring seines.
  • Introduction of mini-trawling in mid-1987 and its subsequent proliferation, targeting near-shore shrimp and fish resources.
  • Introduction of ring seines with inboard engines and purse line haulers in 1999 and continuous increase in numbers.


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