How Goans get around a monsoon ban on fishing (remembering Lin Ostrom..)

Aaron Savio Lobo of Scroll has a piece on the topic.

Goa and the west coast states ban fishing during this period. The government in order to supplement the demand supplies frozen fisheries via mobile vans. These fisheries are brought from AP and TN where time of ban is different.

What is interesting is how the local Goan fisher people have worked around the ban using their local knowhow. This is what Prof Lin Ostrom would strongly approve as well (though Prof Ostrom just brought to limelight what was always known to local people managing commons):

During the monsoon months, when meeting their protein demands from the sea was difficult, coastal communities still managed a smaller – although continuous – supply of fish from artisanal fisheries in rivers and estuaries that became active during this time.

Fishers knew that when the rainfall was heavy, the rivers brought down with them large quantities of silt from the Western Ghats, where they originate. Satellite maps often reveal these reddish brown muddy plumes extending from the river mouths into the Arabian Sea. During this time, many marine species make their way into the estuaries and the bays they enclose to feed and breed.

One such prized quarry during the rains is the mudoshi, or ladyfish. Shoals of this fish venture into estuaries to feed on marine worms and small crustaceans that thrive in these nutrient-loaded environments.

In North Goa, at Morjim, near the mouth of the Chapora river, one can see fishers standing in waist-deep water with long bamboo rods baiting their lines with marine worms or with clams they glean from the river’s mud flats when the tide is low.

During spring tides when the currents are at their strongest, bag nets are set between the cured trunks of the betel palms called harri locally. These trunks are flexible enough to withstand the current, yet strong enough to bear the load of the bag nets which quickly fill up with fish and other debris that the river may carry after being left there for a couple of hours.


Today, despite dwindling marine resources in India, Goans continue to be guaranteed a steady supply of the fish of our choice, irrespective of the season. Much of the fish in Goa’s mobile vans – as fresh as we would like to believe it is – has been transported from the East coast, mainly Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh that observe a different fishing ban period.

The remainder is mostly constituted by the catch that has been hoarded during the fishing months, while some may actually be fresh, high quality fish from the estuarine traditional fishers. This fresh fish, however, is sadly mixed in the same basket as the other unsustainably caught seafood.

Our globalised seafood markets tend to blur price signals and mask the actual condition of local stocks and the environment from consumers, most of which is in a bad state of decline.

Rather than celebrating our frozen fish mobile vans that keep us satisfied during the monsoon, let us instead recognise, celebrate and support the many fishers who exist in Goa’s rivers and estuaries so that they continue to do what they have done best for generations – producing quality fresh catch as the monsoons lash our coast.

Relying on the sound knowledge of their water world, rather than technology, they go about using their passive (albeit relatively) environmentally friendly-techniques fully aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy environment to produce catch.

Local knowledge is usually superior but is never taken into consideration..


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