The Growth of Kerala’s Fisheries Industry In Recent Years
Kerala’s coastline, considered as an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) comprises almost 10% of the total shoreline of India. No wonder then that this state is the leading marine fish producer of the country contributing over 25% of the total annual output. Extending over 590 km with a continental shelf of over 40,000 sq km, Kerala has always been a hotbed for lucrative inshore fishing and its fishery industry has been an important part of the state’s economy. In fact, it offers employment opportunities to about 4 lakh people directly and many more indirectly.
In the last decade or so, the fishery industry of Kerala has been booming thanks to government support, advanced infrastructural facilities and growing demand for seafood in both Indian and international markets. On the back of the augmented demand, fishing industry stakeholders have also adopted a string of measures that are helping the domain accelerate its pace of growth.
Intensification of mechanised fishing with a ban on bottom trawling during monsoon, extension of fishing grounds and fishing hours have all been an outcome of the ever-expanding market for Indian marine food. The biggest boost to this sector, however, came by the way of the mass harvesting gear called Ring Seine which has led to a tremendous amplification in fish production in Kerala.
What’s more…the exotic shrimp from the Kerala coastline keeps the industry thriving and has helped the country’s seafood exports hit an all-time high in the fiscal ended 2015. About 34% of the total exports in terms of quantity and 67% in US dollar value comprised of cultured exotic Vannamei shrimp or Whiteleg shrimp which is softer than other varieties and has become a huge favourite with international chefs who love to use it in stir-fries and pan-fried dishes.
The other shrimp varieties that have been bringing in tonnes of dollars into the country as foreign exchange include endemic types such as karikadi (marine shrimp), bamboo shrimp, tiger prawns and naaran (white shrimp). Indian sardines, mackerels, black and silver pomfret, seer fish, tuna fish and sharks are amongst the other popular varieties of Kerala fish renowned the world over for their fresh and delicious taste and their versatility in adapting to various cuisines.
There are consistent efforts being made to ensure that the prosperity and growth of the Kerala fishery industry is sustained and magnified with the coming years. The Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studiesis amongst the key players and thought leaders contributing to the success of this lucrative economic space. It has, in fact, recently partnered in a multi-country global research project that aims to identify the best and most effective ways to prevent diseases on farmed shrimps and devise strategies to give the necessary fillip to aquaculture across Afro-Asian nations.
Initiatives such as this can make immense difference to the lives of small-scale fish farmers in India and specifically Kerala. Low-cost preventive medicines to protect shrimps and fish from diseases can further help the Kerala fishing industry to leverage its strengths, grow faster, become more productive and establish itself as a global force to reckon with in the years to come.