If you are the kind that cannot do without your regular dose of seafood, there is bad news for you. Two international studies carried out recently have confirmed that our oceans are no longer as bountiful as they used to be, and it is only getting worse.
In fact, popular varieties of fish that we take for granted, like Bombil (Bombay Duck), Paplet (Pomfret), Surmai (King Fish), and Halwa (Black Pomfret), will become so rare that they might just disppear from your dinner table in about 30 to 50 years.
Considering that these fish are supposed to be staple catch and a great source of protein and omega fatty acids, the few decades that the studies have given it does not bode well.
The studies have stated that 50 per cent of the stock of these fish are depleting around the globe. One of the inferences is that “25 per cent of the stock” of the total stock is “fast disappearing”.
The varieties most at risk closer home are Halwa, Surmai, Bombil and, of course, the Pomfret. These findings were discussed at the Eco-Revolution 2011 Conference on the themes ‘Global Environment Change and Disaster’ and ‘Coastal Environmental Management’ in Aurangabad recently.
One of the studies referred to here was published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Titled ‘Fisheries Subsidies, Sustainable Development and the WTO’, it says 50 per cent of the world’s commercial stocks are either depleting or have been fished beyond their biological carrying capacity. And here’s what will hit the point home: economic losses due to excessive fishing have been estimated at US$50 billion annually.
The findings were a result of a decade-long exercise by a team of 18 scientists from different countries. The team published its findings in ‘Census of Marine Life’ released in December 2010.
Dr Baban Ingole, deputy director of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Goa, who was part of the conference, told Pune Mirror that it was “an established fact that stocks of all fish species around the globe have gone down”.
|A fish seller displays his wares on Tuesday
“The research clearly shows that fish are fast losing out to human activities, particularly unrestricted fishing, besides rising pollution and sea temperatures,” he added. He said the stocks of local varieties were depleting equally fast.
“However, in our case, we don’t have our own studies to pinpoint the reasons behind it,” he said. And this is why the NIO has planned to conduct a study focussing on the depleting stocks of fish in the seas around India.
Statistic available with the Maharashtra’s fisheries department support the findings of the international studies. On an average, the catch in Mumbai and the Konkan sea shore was 3.95 lakh tonnes per year. However, in the last 10 years, the catch had depleted by 2 to 4 per cent.
The creeks in Mumbai yield fish like Bombay Duck and prawns, whose stock too has been on a decline. According to official statistics, Pomfret catch on Mumbai shores was 856 metric tonnes in 2008, which fell to 683 metric tonnes in 2009, while in Ratnagiri it was 523 metric tonnes in 2009 as against 610 metric tonnes in 2008.
Similarly, the yield of prawns in Mumbai fell from 32,484 metric tonnes in 2008 to 26,561 metric tonnes in 2009. The story was similar in the Thane and Sindhudurg coasts.
Ingole said that the NIO provided whatever data was available with it for the UNEP. “On the international scene popular fish like Tuna and Eel are facing a similar fate,” he added.
When asked about the study of Indian species of fish the NIO was planning, he said that they were were working out a proposal, which would be submitted to the central government.
Global decrease in yield: 50%
Species in decline in India:
Bombay Duck, Pomfret, King Fish and prawns
Species in danger in global market:
Tuna and eel
Avg yield annually in Konkan and Mumbai:
3.95 thousand tonnes
Decrease in yield in 10 years:
2 to 4%