Illegal netting affects livelihood of fishermen

Fishermen fishing in Wullar lake.
Fishermen fishing in Wullar lake.

Suhail Bhat

Bandipora, Dec 15: Unabated illegal netting in Asia’s largest fresh water lake, Wullar, in North Kashmir is posing a serious threat to the fish reserves and affecting nearly 30, 000 downtrodden fishermen.
The artisanal fisherman alleged that Fisheries Department officials are bringing shame to the department by allowing illegal netting from those who are not even registered as fishermen in the department.
Although, a huge number of fixed nets, iron nets and steel or iron meshes can be found tied across Wullar Lake but the places like  Kulhoma, Laharpora, Lakespora, Sadarkoot  Aloosa Paharbal, Nigil and Gookul are the hub of illegal fishing practice.
The fishermen said they use hand spun cast nets and spares to fish which don’t affect the fish reserves as the catch is low in quantity but the “fish mafia” are catching more fish by illegal practices.
“We start before first light and sometimes spend a week in the lake to feed our families but they tie a fixed net at the mouths of streams and rivers that join Wullar and leave it for several days. When we are fishing in the extreme cold they rest in their cozy rooms and wait for the catch to accumulate. All this is done with the help of tainted fisheries officials”, said a fisherman.
He further said that by installing the fixed nets they not only catch more fish but also curtail the movement of fish which directly affects their catch. “We used to catch nearly 20-30 kilograms of fish in one outing but now with these nets in place we hardly get 5-6 kilograms”, he said.
The offenders, however, feel that there is nothing wrong in the fishing techniques as the methods are more convenient and render us more profit. “It’s a business for us and we do it to earn money so that we can make our lives better. Like every other business sector, we introduce new innovations to increase the output. I don’t find anything wrong in it”, an offender said.
President Fishermen Union, Ali Mohammad, laments that they have been running from pillar to post to stop illegal fishing but authorities have let them down. “We have been to Fisheries Department and Deputy Commissioner’s office several times but no action has been taken so far. They only make false promises”.
Director Fisheries Kashmir, R P Singh Bali, while admitting that illegal netting takes place in Wullar lake said that insufficient staff hampers their functioning. “The Wullar lake spreads across two districts, Sopore and Bandipora, and we don’t have enough staff to look after the entire area. But despite the shortcoming, we try hard to control the area. About 30,000 fishermen fish in Wuller. Some do it legally and some illegally. We take action on daily basis involving confiscation and destroying of fixed nets and other prohibited fishing gear. Every month we confiscate hundreds of nets and penalize the fishermen who are found involved in the illegal act”.
Asked if they have any long-term plans to control this practice he said: “This is a practice done by fishermen against their fellow men. We try to educate them by holding several awareness programs wherein we educate them about the long-term consequences of the illegal netting”.


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