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Vembanad Lake to host fish, black clam sanctuaries

Under Fisheries dept. project to replenish fish stock in lake, boat patrolling will be introduced

It is common to see fishermen pushing country-made boats and holidaymakers enjoying fish delicacies on houseboats on Vembanad Lake.

Yet, things are not as perfect as they appear. The brackish water system, a biodiversity hotspot, is under severe stress due to anthropocentric activities.

Surveys have found that fishery resources in the waterbody are fast depleting and suggest urgent measures to revive the stock.

Aimed at addressing the pressure on fisheries wealth in the lake, the Fisheries Department has embarked on an initiative for conservation and management of the resources. The project envisages 60 sanctuaries – twenty each for fish, black clams, and mangroves.

“The fish and clam sanctuaries will be spread over 2.5 hectares each while the unit measure for the mangrove forests will be one kilometre,” said S.Jayasree, Deputy Director of Fisheries, Kottayam.

Besides establishing the sanctuaries, the project also envisages ranching of indigenous fishlings such as milk fish, pearl spot, mullet, and freshwater prawns. Additionally, squads will be deployed on four boats to patrol the waterbody round-the-clock to check illegal and predatory fishing practices.

Discussions are on with the fishermen community to identify ideal locations for establishing the protected areas, which will be finalised in consultations with the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

A resource mapping of the ecosystem with the support of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) and remote sensing of the selected locations by the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre will be done, Ms. Jayasree added.

A resource mapping conducted by the ATREE last year identified 117 fish varieties, including some exotic species, in the lake.

T.D. Jojo, project coordinator of ATREE, said siltation caused by the floods in 2018 had affected the availability of black clams in the lake. “A study in 2013 had found that the western coast of the lake, where the clam workers are concentrated, experienced a severe shortage of the resource while it was abundant on the eastern side. The laying of baby clams in select locations will help offset this imbalance,” he said.

As per estimates, black clam contributes to 70% of fisheries production in Vembanad Lake and around 8,000 people in Kottayam and Alappuzha are dependent on the sector.

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