Shark, 15 other fish species along Maharashtra coast under threat: Study
The study’s findings not only highlight the dangers of indiscriminate fishing to the environment, but also to the fishing community that has seen a drop in the volume of their catch.Updated: Jun 12, 2019 13:10 IST
At least 16 species of fish along Maharashtra’s coast, including some endangered shark species with low reproduction rates, are at risk from overfishing and killing of juvenile fish. In the first month of a yearlong study, the Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation of Maharashtra (MMBCFM) found 16 species of elasmobranchs – cartilaginous fish such as sharks, skates, rays and sawfish – along the state’s coast.
The study’s findings not only highlight the dangers of indiscriminate fishing to the environment, but also to the fishing community that has seen a drop in the volume of their catch.
“Despite a government ban, sharks and other elasmobranchs continue to be caught by fishermen to supply fins for food or medicines,” said E Vivekanandan, former principal scientist and current national consultant at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). “They are being diverted to Chennai and sold illegally to Southeast Asian countries.”
The study revealed that juvenile fish were being illegally caught with gill and trawl nets at fishing ports, including at Mumbai. All 16 species the study identified are already under threat, with some classified as ‘near threatened’ or ‘vulnerable’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
Dhanashree Bagade, a marine biologist from the Mangrove Foundation, who led the study, said the population of elasmobranchs is being overexploited. “Our aim is to develop a report on elasmobranch juveniles and their diversity (with seasonal variations), mainly focusing on commercially important shark species, skates and stingrays falling under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, to suggest mitigation measures for their safety,” said Bagade.
The impact of overfishing is already being seen – according to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) - CMFRI, elasmobranchs catch along the state’s coast declined by 34%, from 5,779 tonnes in 2014 to 3,832 tonnes in 2017.
“The commercial demand for elasmobranchs has increased leading to overexploitation of these fish, rendering this group vulnerable,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. He said these species take a relatively long time to reach maturity so catching juveniles will stop the reproduction cycle. “The main threat was low fecundity (potential for reproduction). Unlike other bony fishes, elasmobranchs produce fewer offspring. If they are overfished, they would easily become endangered,” Vasudevan said.
First Published: Jun 12, 2019 13:10 IST