Smt. J. Mercykutty Amma
Honourable Minister for Fisheries
Principal Secretary to Government Fisheries
MINI ANTONY I A S
Director of Fisheries
Kerala’s fisheries and aquaculture resources are rich and diverse. Many species of fishes, invertebrates, plants, algae and other aquatic living organisms occupy a wide variety of habitats along the inland waters as well as the 590 km of coastline and associated waters. Kerala’s coastline accounts for over 10 % of the coastline of the country. Theaquatic biodiversity and fish wealth of Kerala sustain more than 10 lakh fisherfolk and supports numerous additional activities including commercial fishing, aquaculture, biotechnology applications, tourism, education and recreation. The growing population, diverse culture, and expanding economy will continue to place additional demands on the state’s marine resources, and make management of these resources increasingly complex.
Among the maritime states in India, Kerala occupies the foremost position in marine fish production, accounting for about 26 % of the total landings. Out of the EEZ of 2.2 million km2 for India, 36,000 km2, is adjacent to the Kerala coast. The well-known Wadge Bank is situated within the exploitable limit of Kerala. The mud banks (Chakara) which occasionally occur between Kollam and Kannur, yielding a good catch of fish and shell fish is peculiar to the state. The potential of the state in terms of marine fisheries is believed to be about 7.5 lakh tones. Besides, this sector contributes around 1.26% to the total GDP and the export of marine products has set ever time record of 1852.93 million US$ during the year 2011-12. The total population of fisher folk residing in the state of Kerala is estimated to be 10.02 lakh, which includes 7.712 lakh in the marine sector and 2.304 in the inland sector. Out of this, the number of active fishermen is 2.39 lakh (1.87 lakh in marine sector and 0.52 lakh in the inland sector). Currently, there are 222 fishing villages in the marine and 113 fishery villages in the inland sector, where fishing and relative aspects provide livelihood to a vast majority of the population. Nearly 12% of the fisher folk eke out their living from allied activities like marketing, repairing nets, fish vending, and processing and other fishery related activities. The State's fisheries sector is an epic one, comprising of 21781 crafts out of which 22% are mechanised, 51% are motorized and the remaining 27% non-motorized crafts. Although the fish catches from Kerala coast include more than 300 different species, the commercially important are forty only. Prominent among them are Sardine, mackerel, seer fish, pomfret and prawn.
The extent of inland water resources of Kerala is highly potential for expanding aquaculture. Kerala’s rich fertile coastal waters and enterprising coastal fishing communities would benefit very much through organised planning and implementation of proven and sustainable aquaculture technologies, through HRD measures, selecting appropriate sites and culture systems and species judiciously and providing the needed infrastructure. Recently Kerala declared pearl spot (“Karimeen”), Etroplussuratensis, as the state fish and utmost efforts had been taken for making it available to all as a table fish.
The annual per capita consumption of fish in Kerala is very high (18.5 kg) compared to the national average (5 kg). There is no taboo as such that hinders the consumption of fish and fishery products and hence majority of population consume fish.
Although, Kerala boast the highest quality of life in the country as measured by human development indicators, it is a fact that the State's fishing community has largely been left out of the general development experience.Traditional fisher folk who had no other employment option continued to lag behind the rest of the State in all areas of development. This marginalization poses a challenge to the notion of Kerala being a "model of development".
To change this iniquitous and to bring them to the mainstream of the society, the government and fisheries department has undertaken various projects and programmesviz
- •Increasing production and conserving and ensuring sustainable exploitation of fisheries wealth,
- •Promoting aquaculture in a sustainable as well as eco-friendly way,
- •Developing infrastructures like fishery harbours, landing centers , markets, common facility centers, net factories etc
- •Implementation of welfare schemes to the fisher folk.
The Department of Fisheries and its allied sectors viz. Kerala State Cooperative Federation for Fisheries development Ltd (Matsyafed), Agency for Development of Aquaculture, Kerala (ADAK), Kerala Fishermen’s Welfare Fund (KFWEB), State Fisheries Resource Management Society (FIRMA), Fish Farmers Development Agency (FFDA), Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation(KSCADC), National Institute of Fisheries Administration and Management (NIFAM) and Society for Assistance to fisherwomen (SAF) and Marine Enforcement (ME) implements the Government's visions and schemes in this sector.