by RAHUL MURALIDHARAN
April 21,2017 | Source: The Wire
Coastal Tamil Nadu will be abuzz with news reports announcing the start of the annual 45-day fishing ban for mechanised boats commonly called trawlers. The reports will also tell us that fish prices may soar due to falling fish supplies. Vindicated as a means to reduce fishing effort and aid conservation, the annual 45-day fishing ban between April 15 and May 31 was ordained in Tamil Nadu in 2001. This restricted fishing period – implemented by the state – was a result of protests and agitations held by small-scale fishers to curb near-shore trawling that had been going on for several decades. What does this ban mean for fisheries conservation?
The story begins in 1949, after the Second World War, when fisheries around the world were to be regulated and managed using the concept of the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). MSY is the maximum level at which fish can be harvested without causing long-term depletion of the fish stock. In one of her books, Carmel Finely has chronicled the history of MSY, and as a historian of fisheries science, her central argument is that fisheries management is politics masked as science.
At the heart of this science, according to her, is the idea that removing fish frees up food and other resources for the faster-growing smaller fish. In