Monitoring fish catch in the Muttukadu Lagoon

Naveen Namboothri

Lagoons are highly productive ecosystems and provide a range of social and ecological services. They are rich breeding grounds for a number of marine species, regulate flooding, provide protection from storms and are sites of aesthetic beauty. Many of India’s lagoons are degraded due to a range of factors such as land-use change, pollution, over-harvesting of fresh water, overfishing and unregulated coastal development. Understanding and conserving these ecologically sensitive regions is critical. It is equally important to demonstrate to decision-makers the importance of lagoon and estuarine systems for local communities and highlight the rapid destruction of these delicate socio-ecological systems.

Dakshin aims to work on these issues in its fisheries-monitoring site in the Muttukadu lagoon – one of the eight important lagoon systems on the east coast of India, situated near Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu. In the first phase of our monitoring programme we focus on fish catch composition from small-scale fisheries in the lagoon, undertaken by a local fishing community.

As a collaborative venture with MCBT, Dakshin has initiated a long-term monitoring programme that aims to identify the causes of decline in fish productivity of the Muttukadu lagoon. By creating a simple and easy-to-use data collection protocol for MCBT’s volunteers and interns, we intend to create long-term data on fish productivity of the Muttukadu lagoon, their diversity, distribution and seasonal variations. In addition, the monitoring programme will attempt to understand long-term changes in land use patterns around the lagoon, monitor pollution levels and understand its impacts on fish communities. This information will be critical in identifying the reasons that have led to the decline of fisheries in the Muttukadu lagoon, and future actions to redress this situation.

In the second phase of the project, we will share the findings of the volunteer-run monitoring programme with the fishers of Vadanameli village. We intend to develop mechanisms of community-based monitoring with the requisite capacity building and skill sharing, in partnership with MCBT.

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