The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has taken part in a pioneering project of the Department of Fisheries, Government of India to deploy artificial reefs (AR) in a total of 3477 fishing villages in the country with the aim of promoting sustainable fisheries and livelihood.
As part of this ambitious project, a nationwide campaign has been launched in association with respective state governments and the technical support of the CMFRI, starting from Kerala where AR is proposed in 220 villages. In the first phase of the implementation of the project, five pre-stakeholder workshops were conducted from Tuesday to Friday for 42 villages in Thiruvananthapuram district, providing a platform to educate and engage village-level fishermen leaders about the potential of AR in transforming the marine fishing landscape. Site identification for the deployment of reefs was finalised during these meetings which were held in Punthura, Vettukad, Perumathura, Kayikkara and Vizhinjam under the organization of the Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation Limited (KSCADC) which is the operational agency in Kerala.
An artificial reef is a sheltered human-built structure, placed on the sea bed as a substitute for natural habitats. With a fixed scientific design, it functions as a self-sustaining production system on the sea bed.
The project is under the Prime Minister’s Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) scheme, with 60% funding from the Centre and 40% from the state governments.
17 to 30% increase in fishery
According to CMFRI, a 17 to 30% increase in the fishery was observed from the locations where the reefs were already deployed. The technology has been deployed in 132 locations with a total area of 3.7 lakh square metres across the country, including Kerala under the leadership of CMFRI.
For the last few years, the CMFRI has been successfully undertaking the installation of artificial reefs in the coastal waters of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala on an experimental basis under the leadership of Dr Joe K Kizhakudan, Principal Scientist. The positive outcome of the project in terms of enhanced fish availability to the small-scale fishers at lower operation costs was instrumental in prompting the Central government to expand the technology across the country.
“CMFRI has developed protocols for site selection, design, fabrication, deployment and impact assessment of this innovative technology”, said Dr A Gopalakrishnan, Director of CMFRI.
He cited its benefits, pointing out that artificial reefs would help restore the marine environment and boost coastal fish production. “It will discourage bottom trawling in the near shore areas, helping the marine environment to regenerate and the small-scale fishers to get a higher catch,” Dr Gopalakrishnan added.
According to CMFRI, over 300 species coexist in a settled AR habitat. The commercial varieties being attracted to the AR include breams, groupers, snappers, perches, cobia, sea bass, rabbit fishes, silver biddies, seer fish, barracuda, mackerel, trevallies, queen fishes etc.
Dr Joe K Kizhakudan is leading the awareness campaign across the country. He emphasised that promoting this technology would empower small and artisanal fishers by improving their income and livelihood. Consequent stakeholder workshops will be completed in all the maritime states by the end of this month.