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National Biodiversity Authority
(An Autonomous and Statutory Body of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India)

Participatory Management and Conversation of Lobster Resources along the Indian Coast-Chairman Speech-English


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Chairman Speech
06th-Mar-2007

PARTICIPATORY MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION OF LOBSTER RESOURCES ALONG THE INDIAN COAST

Prof S. Kannaiyan
Chairman, National Biodiversity Authority, Chennai - 41

Along the Tamil Nadu coast lobsters are mainly landed as a by catch by trawlers. There also exists a targeted fishery for lobsters by bottom-set-gillnets and trammel nets by artisanal fishermen. Handpicking of lobsters by divers is also prevalent in certain pockets.

Drastic decline in lobsters during recent/years is a great concern and the resource is facing acute pressure and is likely to vanish if regulatory measures are not enforced immediately. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India has implemented Minimum. Legal Size (MLS) for export of lobsters. However this is not strictly enforced and undersized lobsters and egg bearing lobsters are continued to be exported. The maritime Government should bring in fishing regulations for sustainability of the resource and for conservation of the resource for future generations. If regulations are not enforced immediately decline in landings will continue and the lobster resource in Tamil Nadu may meet the same fate of the slipper lobster fishery along the Mumbai coast. The slipper lobster fishery along the Mumbai coast collapsed in 1994 and the fishery has not shown any sign of recovery so far.

Lobster is a high value resource mostly exported to international markets and annual export is to the tune of Rs.60 crores. Though widely distributed along the Indian coasts, commercial fishery is located only along the northwest, southwest and southeast coasts. Annual landing has declined from the peak of 4075t in 1985 to 1300t in 2005 and Tamil Nadu contributed nearly 24% of the total landings. In Tamil Nadu also landings declined drastically from a peak of998t in 1998 to 305t in 2005.

Species composition

Though 30 species of lobsters are known to be distributed along the Indian coast, only 5 species contribute to the commercial fishery. Among the spiny lobsters, Panulirus polyphagus, P. homarus and P. ornatus and the deep sea lobster Puerulus sewelli contribute to the fishery. The slipper lobster Thenus oriental~s is also a component of the commercial catch, which is mainly exploited along tht: northwest and southeast coasts. Tamil Nadu has the richest diversity of lobsters along the Indian coast.

Apart from the major commercial species, P. homarus, P. ornatus, P. polyphagus, T. orientalis and P. sewelli, other species such as P. versicolor, P. pencillatus and P. longipes longipes are also landed in smaller quantities. Recently a new species of deep sea lobster Palinustus waguensis is caught along the Tamil Nadu coast. More than 95% of the live lobster export is shared by Tamil Nadu.

* Special address delivered during the inauguration of the workshop on Participatory Management and Conservation of Lobster Resources along with Indian Coast at Kasimedu, Chennai on 6th March, 2007

PARTICIPATORY MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION OF LOBSTER RESOURCES ALONG THE INDIAN COAST

Prof S. Kannaiyan
Chairman, National Biodiversity Authority, Chennai - 41

Unlike the shrimps, spiny lobsters have a complex life cycle. Larval phase is prolonged and though having high fecundity larval survival is estimated to be less than 0.1 %. Since earlier life history stages are vulnerable to predation, to several environmental factors and later to anthropogenic interferences, this valuable resource and their habitat are to be protected for their continued sustenance. Since postlarval stages and juveniles of species such as P. homarus and P. ornatus live very close to the shore, their natural nursery habitats need to be protected. P.homarus breeds in shallow grounds and during this period the females with egg bearing lobsters are caught. Operation of destructive gears such as trammel nets (disco net) are harmful as juveniles and sub adults are mostly entrapped because of the smaller mesh size of the net. The young lobsters do not get opportunity to breed at least once. Thus by harvesting sub adult lobsters and egg bearing lobsters, humans pose the biggest threat to their survival. Therefore protection of the inshore nursery habitats and their breeding grounds is necessary for maintaining the bio diversity of lobsters along the Tamil Nadu coast.

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute has taken up an important project to educate the fishermen on the necessity of protection of the resource for their future livelihood. The project on 'Participatory Management and Conservation of Lobster Resources along the Indian coast funded by Marine Products Export Development Authority was initiated at Khadiyapatinam in Kanyakumari District in November 2002. Since then several outreach programmes to educate the fishermen and other stakeholders on dangers of destructive fishing methods and negative consequences of exploitation of juveniles and egg bearing lobsters were organized in the maritime states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Sustainability of a resource like the high value lobsters is possible only if the fishermen is involved in the management of the resource. Fishermen of a cluster of lobster fishing villages must decide how their resource is to be protected. In Australia fishermen carry a scale to make sure that the lobster they catch is not below the legal size. Fisheries Department mark egg bearing lobster with a '^' mark on the tail and release them back in the sea. They regularly harvest 10,000 tonnes of lobsters annually with enforcements of very strict regulations. Conservation of lobster resource in the country can be achieved only if those involved in fishing, trading and exporting of lobsters follow the measures suggested by the Government. Otherwise in the near future lobsters from Tamil Nadu coast will vanish and if the fishing collapses, it may not recover even in 100 years. Since the countries importing lobster from India have understood that no fishing regulations are in vogue in India and exporters from India will continuously supply only smaller sized lobsters to their market. We have been lured by their alternative offers and our fishermen catch whatever they could, without knowing that this resource will not sustain for long. It is high time that we think of protecting our resource and follow regulations implemented by the Government. The Management plans formulated by government in turn should consider the livelihood of the fishermen who depend upon the resource.