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Indian Tuna catch falls by 50% within a year, while other fish landings rise

8 years ago | Written by Times of India

VISAKHAPATNAM: The marine fish catch in the Port City has been showing a paradoxical trend in recent years. While the catch of certain species of pelagic fish and prawns have increased considerably from 2.5 lakh tonnes five years ago to 3.4 lakh tonnes in 2014-15, the tuna landing has plummeted by 50 per cent within a year from 27,000 tonnes in 2014 to 14,000 tonnes in 2015! Fish migration is said to be the main reason for decrease in catch while innovative fishing technique is being attributed to higher landings of some species.

As per data by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), in the last 15 years, the top five species with highest landing (the marine catch that's brought to the land) include pelagic resources such as sardines and mackerel, penacid, prawns, ribbon fish and croakers.

Speaking about the trend, senior scientist and scientist-in-charge of Visakhapatnam Regional Centre of CMFRI Subhodeep Ghosh said, "In 1990, the marine fish landing was 1.2 lakh tonnes. In 2000, the number increased to 1.8 lakh tonnes (LT). But over the next decade that is between 2000 and 2010, the increase was rapid from 1.8 LT to 2.5 LT and between 2010 and 2014, the catch rocketed to 3.4 LT. This increase especially of sardines in the last few years can be attributed to the extensive use of ring seine and gill nets. The specialty of the ring seine nets is that these encircling nets can catch shoals of fish at one go. Pelagic fish like oil sardines and mackerels move about in shoals or groups."

This increase has been achieved despite Vizag coast being more polluted and littered compared to other districts due to domestic and industrial effluents and tourism activities.

At the same time, the drastic decrease in tuna landing is due to factors like climatic conditions and changing wind direction that influence the migratory nature of the species. Though their landing has decreased all over India, it's more pronounced in the Eastern Coast surrounding Vizag. "Tuna is a migratory fish whose movement is co-related to wind direction. During the northeast monsoon, when the wind blows from north to south, tuna is driven from the deeper waters towards the shore waters. At other times, when the wind blows from south to north, the fish will be driven away from the shores and catch will dip. Change in climatic conditions also force them to migrate elsewhere. In 2011-12, the tuna catch was 30,000 tonnes, which diminished to 27,000 tonnes in 2014. But by 2015, the landing was at just 14,000 tonnes, reducing by nearly 50 per cent," added the scientist.

However, apart from natural factors, tuna traders and exporters blame the decrease in catch on hurdles in exporting from Vizag airport that has led to diversification of interest for other species. Madhu Varma, managing partner of M/s Continental Marines and fresh tuna exporter from the city averred, "Unlike other species, which are exported via sea, the tuna is the only species that's exported by air from here as the demand is for fresh catch. The catch has to be routed through Chennai for export as there's no direct airlines to the target countries such as USA and Japan. They can't even be loaded in connecting flights to Malaysia or Dubai as there's no proper cargo handling and cold storage facility at the Vizag airport. The suitable big scanners required to scan the cargo is also not available. Owing to these discouraging factors, exporters are diversifying to other fish such as sardines and prawns."


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