As the world runs out of its fish wealth, clam fishery in the Ashtamudi estuary, especially that of the yellow-foot clam fishery is being assessed by an international body, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), for an eco-label certificate.
The assessment will involve evaluating whether the fisheries are sustainable, its impact on the life of other rare or threatened organisms and whether the practice complies with the existing fisheries and environmental laws of the region.
“The eco-labelling certification by the MSC will work as a market incentive for the yellow-foot clam or the short-neck clam, which forms the majority of the clams that are exported to European countries and the US from the state,” World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Marine Programme senior coordinator Vinod M said. The WWF was involved in the pre-assessment process of the fishery.
The community-based short-neck clam fishery is of growing economic importance in the region, with the fishery directly employing up to 1,500 clam-fishermen and indirectly contributing to the livelihoods of another 3,000.
In the pre-assessment stage, the fishing methodology adopted by these fishermen were evaluated and found to be very sustainable. The two methods employed - the dive-and-pick method as well as the use of hand dredgers - were found to be designed so as to let young clams get back to water and prevent over-exploitation of the bio-wealth.
“Besides, there is a self-imposed ban among the fishermen to not fish during the breeding as well as spawning seasons. They stop on the first of December and the ban is on till January and February, until the clams reach the proper size,” Vinod said, pointing out the wisdom of traditional knowledge that helps in conservation.
It is estimated that the clam, Paphia malabarica, makes up 12,000-15,000 tonnes of the 20,000 tonnes of clams caught in the Ashtamudi estuary, earning the country Rs 10-crore worth of foreign revenue.
“Once this fisheries get the full certification, the market value will immediately go up and even if the production is low, there will be enough money to prevent irrational exploitation,” said Vinod.
The MSC is an international non-profit organisation set up to help transform the
seafood market to a sustainable basis. The MSC runs the only certification and eco-labelling programme for wild-capture fisheries, consistent with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation Guidelines for the Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries.
Worldwide, more than 19,500 seafood products, which can be traced back to the certified sustainable fisheries, bear the blue MSC eco-label. In total, over 300 fisheries are engaged in the MSC programme, with 200 certified and over 100 under full assessment.
“The pre-assessment was itself a detailed procedure with elaborate studies on as many as 30 performance indicators for each of the principles,” Vinod said.
Source:The New Indian Express