ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Criminalising Traditional Fisheries for Conservation in the Gulf of Mannar

Traditional fisheries in the Gulf of Mannar have a 200-year-old history of being criminalised, based on a colonial framing of threats of conservation.

On a moonlit night, fishers are waiting for a signal to rush towards Muyal Theevu, an island in the Gulf of Mannar. They are practising an indigenously deve­loped pole and stake net fishing style known as Kalamkatti, using traditional knowledge accrued by observing fish movements from deeper into shallow island waters. During high tide, the fish prefer sheltered waters, calm and with weak currents, settling around coral reefs. When the tide ebbs, the fish retreat into deeper waters and this is the moment when Kalamkatti fishing comes into play. Fishers keenly observe fish aggregating spots around the island during full moon days to stake poles that help as markers. During low tide the next morning, the fishers visit the island to set nets around their earlier marked poles.

The submerged part of the net in the bottom, known as madavalai, is covered with sand. The upper part of the net, known as meevalai, is kept upright by staking more poles. Fishing is done at night, in pitch darkness, in spots where the fish would have settled during high tide. Once the leader signals using a matchstick light or a shrill call, a group of fishers rush to lift the meevalai over the poles. The fish within these nets cannot escape. Kalamkatti fishing catches diverse fish species in large quantities, which often take hours to retrieve from the nets. This collective form of fishing is governed by strong local management regulations, and, given the peculiarity of this technique, fishers have to stay long hours on the island to observe fish movements.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Back to Top