To combat depletion of the fish population, the calendar helps promote informed consumption
Although most seafood consumers know that fishing is prohibited during the monsoon and many avoid eating seafood during this time, this knowledge is not enough to promote sustainable consumption, according to the co-founders of “Know Your Fish,” a website that works to promote ocean-friendly eating habits.
Know Your Fish (https://www.knowyourfish.org.in/) is a monthly calendar of fish to avoid or choose based on breeding seasons and populations. It was launched in 2017.
Focusing on consumers, Pooja Rathod, Mayuresh Gangal and Chetana Puurushotham, alumni of the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, launched the website after three years of research. The idea for the website came when a restaurateur approached them for suggestions on suitable fish to serve in 2014.
There is a 61-day annual fishing ban (June 1 to July 31) on the west coast of the country. It was formulated to help regenerate marine fisheries in Indian waters, where the monsoon season creates a favorable environment for fish spawning, and is crucial for protecting marine habitat during the breeding season.
However, to combat the depletion of the catches, fishermen in Gujarat have called for an increase in the fishing ban to 91-120 days.
“The fisheries department should have a detailed discussion with scientists about the breeding season of different fish and ban the monsoon accordingly. For example, the breeding season of the Pomfret is in May, while others start in June. We can have a two-month ban during the monsoon, and another in January and February. This way we can control the depletion of the fish catch, ”said Devendra Tandel, president of the national fisheries association.
The Know Your Fish (KYF) team hopes that informed choices and updated eating habits will lead to a change in demand and, eventually, fishing practices. “Solving the problem of overfishing requires action on several fronts. Through KYF, we can raise awareness, create a ‘human constitution’ for marine ecosystems, and if a majority of seafood consumers follow such initiatives, they can impact demand, ”Gangal said, marine biologist and one of the founders.
The group checked the science from the Central Marine Fisheries Institute and enlisted the help of friends and colleagues to create a website. They also put the calendar together, highlighting 12 popular species. They have also partnered with restaurants that have agreed to change their menus to serve only seasonal fish.
KYF adapts its approach based on feedback. On his website, he asked citizens to report findings of eggs in the fish they caught / bought. “Some fish breed throughout the year, so we asked citizens to avoid these fish during peak breeding season. Second, data on some species is limited and through citizen initiatives we can improve the information, ”Gangal said.
Presenting the search in a streamlined way, the team is also working to make KYF more accessible and available in five languages widely spoken along the West Coast.
In 2019, two studies warned that fish populations along the Maharashtra coast could collapse due to overfishing and the death of juveniles. Maharashtra saw a significant decline in marine fish landings of 32% in 2019 from the previous year to 2.01 lakh tonnes, the lowest in 45 years, according to the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). CMFRI has noted a downward trend in catches in recent years – in 2018 it was 2.95 tonnes lakh while in 2017 it was 3.81 tonnes lakh.
Bombay Duck or Bombil is rapidly disappearing from the city’s coastal waters (down 25% over the past decade) due to a combination of overfishing and climate change, according to a CMFRI study.