Ajithraj R. and Prerana Gawde
After a two month-long election frenzy, midway through the month of Ramadan, in the muggy heat of Lakshadweep, and with a disordered circadian rhythm, we officially launched “fisheries co-management” jointly with the Lakshadweep Fisheries Department, in Kavaratti, the capital of Lakshadweep, earlier this year.
Fisheries Co-management is an approach that brings together government agencies, resource users and other related stakeholders to make locally relevant decisions and share responsibilities for resource management. We organized this meeting with the aim of facilitating a direct dialogue between the local fisher community and decision-making agencies in Lakshadweep, to highlight the need for managing fishery resources collectively and discuss possible ways of doing so.
In the run-up to the meeting, our entire field team was busy organizing logistics, inviting fishers and government authorities, and working on presentations in the nights, energized throughout by Lakshadweep’s special kattan chaya (black tea)! On D-day, as we waited, all-prepped up for the meeting in the conference hall of the Fisheries Department, we were glad to see members of the fisher community occupying more than half the space at the roundtable.
The meeting started off with an inaugural address by the Hon’ble Secretary – Fisheries, Mr. Damodar A. T, I.F.S. Acknowledging Dakshin Foundation’s sizeable body of work and its strong presence within the fisher community, the Hon’ble Secretary highlighted the important role that non-governmental organisations can play in bridging the gap between government agencies and local communities for better decision-making.
Mr. Abdul Khader, Chairperson, Village (Dweep) Panchayat, Kavaratti and Dr. P. P. Koya, Director, Department of Fisheries, offered support from their respective institutions to the fisher community and Dakshin for taking this collaborative initiative forward. Mr. Mohammed Kasim, Assistant Director, Department. of Fisheries, and Dr. Idrees Babu, Scientist, Department of Science and Technology, and other representatives actively participated in the meeting and provided valuable inputs. Representing the fisher community were the owners of 23 active “pole and line tuna fishing” boats.
The meeting was set off with an introduction to fisheries co-management by our Director, Dr. Naveen Namboothri. Mahaboob Khan, a native of Lakshadweep, and our main man for community mobilization, then carried the meeting forward with a quick presentation on the current status of baitfish (small fish that are used as bait for catching tuna and a critical resource in Lakshadweep’s fisheries) availability based on fisher perspectives and subsequently moderated an invigorating discussion around it. It was heartening to see fishers voicing their concerns regarding potentially unsustainable fishing such as light-assisted fishing for baitfish during the night. Towards the end of the meeting, fishers and other stakeholders present at the meeting, though a show of hands, voted in favour of curtailing practices like light-fishing and dumping fish waste in island lagoons, reaffirming our belief that fishers can be stewards of their resources and need to play an active role in managing their fisheries.