Traditional Kerala Indian oil sardine in crisis

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Tuesday, 16 July 2019 11:35

INDIA : Crisis is what prompted the southwestern coastal state of Kerala to lead the way in this spate of new fisheries regulations.

The Indian oil sardine (Sardinella longiceps) is a staple food in this state and a mainstay of its fishing industry. Catch of this small fish boomed through the 2000s, driven by intensified fishing. The fish had also expanded its range northward due to warming waters, giving other states a bigger catch than before. But after a record-high catch of 390,000 metric tons in 2012, sardine landings in Kerala plunged to 45,000 tons in 2016.

Scientists commissioned to study the problem found that the crash was caused mainly by environmental factors, including an El Niño one year, but also by overfishing. Fishers constantly exceeded the maximum sustainable yield of the fishery between 2010 and 2013, the scientists found, and were catching an increasing number of juvenile fish.

The crisis prompted the Kerala government to implement a range of measures, beginning with a ban on fishing juvenile sardines in 2015. The sardine catch started rebounding in 2017, which many observers attributed to these measures.

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