World Environment Day 2018: Kerala fishermen now net plastic from seas along with sardines, mackerels
After three days of deep-sea fishing, Justin Fernandez, who comes from a traditional fishers’ family in Kollam’s Neendakara, is back with the catch. Along with glowing sardines and mackerels, he has brought back three bags full of garbage from the sea.
With fish, those at sea are increasingly netting plastic, which has threatened the environment and is slowly killing the primary source of livelihood for fishermen.
“After (cyclonic storm) Ockhi, we retrieved at least 400kg of ghost nets (abandoned nets). When the cyclone wreaked havoc, hundreds of boats and nets were destroyed. Once destroyed, they (fishermen) abandon them but these nets pose grave danger to marine creatures,” said Robert Panipilla, patron of an NGO, Friends of Marine Life.
According to the country’s premier marine research body, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), by 2050, all major oceans will have more plastic than fish. Estimates based on the current figures of garbage dumping indicate 850 million tonne of plastic will be found in oceans by 2050. There will, however, be only 821 million tonne of fish in waters by then.
Experts say if microplastic is in water, it will likely be found in items of daily use in kitchens and groceries.
“Microplastics are posing a serious threat to marine food chain. In seas around the Indian sub-continent, high levels of plastic were found in many varieties of fish such as tuna, sardine and sea birds,” said Dr V Kripa, principal scientist with the CMFRI. She said recent studies have shown that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans, adding that drastic measures were needed to stop the pollution.
State fisheries minister J Mercykutty Amma said: “Fishing community, boat operators and people living along coastal areas have realised the importance of a clean sea. We will showcase the project in all major ports of the state soon.”