Mobilizing communities for sustainable and equitable fisheries governance in the Lakshadweep Islands

Ishaan KhotMahaboob Khan, Ajith Raj R, Prerana GawdeMeera OommenKartik Shanker, Naveen Namboothri

The main commercial fishery for Lakshadweep islanders is the live-bait pole and line tuna fishery, which targets oceanic skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) stocks via the use of inshore planktivorous baitfish, thus diverting fishing pressure off the more ecologically sensitive carnivore and herbivore fish guilds of the reef and lagoon ecosystems. Due to its minimal habitat impact and high species selectivity, the live-bait pole and line tuna fishing method is recognised globally as a best practice tuna fishing technique. Unfortunately, the fishery currently faces significant threats from declining catch and poor market access. Accompanying these downwards trends are increases in the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and the targeting of spawning baitfish populations, which help alleviate short-term livelihood stress but may be highly damaging in the long run.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sustainable maintenance of the pole and line tuna fishery is vital to the health of these island systems, as it not only safeguards ecologically important reef fish from overexploitation but is also a culturally ingrained practice within the island communities. This project is an interdisciplinary collaborative study to document the socio-ecological dimensions of Lakshadweep’s primary fishing industry. Over the past three years, we have conducted socio-ecological surveys, documenting fisher perspectives and ecological baselines of baitfish populations found in the islands of Agatti, Kadmat, Kavaratti and Minicoy. In January of 2014, we initiated a community-based monitoring program and are currently working on scaling and strengthening this initiative.

Our work intends to generate information vital to sustainable fisheries development that ensures livelihoods and promotes marine resource conservation. Involving fisherfolk in catch monitoring will encourage stakeholder participation, increase stewardship as well as provide a platform for decision-making and management. The information generated by our long-term collaborative researcher and community-based monitoring programs will help better understand the ongoing changes and factors driving declines in resource abundance. Through this work, we also explore the potential for a sustainable certification of the Lakshadweep pole and line tuna fishery, as such a certification could act as a vital block to detrimental fishing practices such as longlining and reef fishing.

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