Oil sardine, Kerala's staple fish which had been on the decline in the state's coast for the past many years, is on the path of revival, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in Kochi, said on Friday. However, the institute has cautioned fishers in the state about catching the sardine as they are still below the reproductive age.
Catching these sardine stocks extensively may badly affect the expected revival of the fish, the CMFRI stated. Upon assessing the sexual maturity of the fish, a team of researchers at the CMFRI found that the sardines which are of a size of 14 to 16 cm are yet to reach the reproductive stage. The CMFRI researchers said that three more months will be required for the fish schools to attain full maturity. The research team has also revealed that in the discovered fish stock, spawning stock biomass — which is the total weight of fish in a stock that have attained reproductive maturity for spawning — is meagre.
“Considering this unusual and unfavourable status of the stock, we advise not to catch these sardines even though they fall above the Minimum Legal Size (MLS) of 10 cm," Dr EM Abdussamad, Principal Scientist of CMFRI who led the study, stated in an official release. Meanwhile, CMFRI Director Dr A Gopalakrishnan said that the issue has been brought to the attention of Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma.
The CMFRI has stated that regulating the fishing of sardines at present, will help augment the revival of the fish along the Kerala coast. The CMFRI also stated that if regulated, the revival of oil sardine in Kerala will be quicker.
Oil sardine landing in Kerala had been on a sharp decline for the past five years. Though sardine landing reported a slight increase in 2017, it dipped further in the following years. In the annual study report released in June 2020, the CMFRI stated that in 2019, sardine landing was the lowest in two decades at just 44,320 tonnes. The CMFRI had earlier found that unfavourable conditions in the ocean ecosystem following the El Nino phenomenon were behind the fluctuations in the availability of sardine.
A huge dip in the catch in 2019 had led to a sharp hike in the price of the fish. At the time, the price of the fish, which was at Rs 60 to 100 per kg, had shot up to Rs 300 kg.