PANAJI: In the recent past, rampaging pickers of Goa’s shellfish delicacies scraped the river bed and escaped with the booty unopposed. As the devastation continued, several species have thinned out due to overfishing, pollution and other factors
Many popular bivalve mollusk - tisreo (clams), kalvam (oysters) and also xinnaneo (green mussels) are found less on the dinner plate.
But now, a flash of concern among a few activists is lighting a spark of resistance on the rim of Zuari bay against the continuing unsustainable practices.
On Thursday, the first day of the final third phase of summer low tide, Chicalim biodiversity managers helped to keep away clam gatherers with police help. But upstream in Zorint, Sancoale, a few men managed to cart away sack loads of kalvam and mother shells.
A few prominent residents have been trying to sensitize stakeholders about the ecologically-damaging practices. “We saw people take away kalvam home with hadde (mother shells). Their habitat is not your home but the river bed. If the hadde are taken away, it will trigger erosion and affect breeding process,” Fr Bolmax Pereira, Chicalim parish priest and assistant professor of botany said.
Making an impassioned plea at the livestreamed daily mass at Chicalim church, he said the fishermen and others have to choose between exhausting even brood stock and leaving some next season.
A fisheries scientist, Baban Ingole had recently sounded caution about taking away mother shells, as it disturbs breeding process.
Breaking the shells, taking out oysters and leaving the shells intact is a sustainable practice, which older fisher folks followed.
“Each mother shell may host 10 to 20 newly-settled spats (larvae), which take two years to mature. Therefore, they have to be nurtured till maturity but in the absence of mother shells, they won’t be able to survive,” Ingole, retired chief scientist, biological, NIO said.
During recent summer low tide phases, hordes of pickers carried away massive quantities of kalvam, upsetting the sensitive activists.
“By taking away the mother shells, not only productive population is killed and kalvam habitat is damaged but future progeny is also destroyed,”Ingole said.
On his morning rounds, Cyril Fernandes, a local resident and human rights activist keeps alerting biodiversity managers of both villages about incursion of clam gatherers in the bay.
For the first time - and helped by lockdown, police help and support from Goa state biodiversity board - Chicalim biodiversity management committee (BMC), headed by Rui M Costa Araujo has managed to prevent large-scale damage.
“The locals received a bounty this year and it is our responsibility to prioritize conservation,” Fr Pereira urged the parishioners in a video.
The stakeholders across the state need to be sensitized for shellfish conservation. “Chicalim and Sancoale BMCs’ proactive role has to be appreciated and others should replicate this conservation strategy in their areas,” Fernandes said.
Keri fishermen land unusual catch
A 20 to 25-cm fish resembling a horse mackerel found by two local fishermen in Keri on the Tiracol river mouth below the fort has excited them, as they claim they had never seen it in their catch earlier.
“It looks like a bangdo (mackerel) but is not so flat like it,” says Bhushan Pednekar, ho hauled the catch with his brother in their small canoe.
But fisheries scientists said that the fish is not uncommon. “It appears to be Caesionidae caerulaurea, which is found usually in coral reefs and belongs to a fish group called snappers,” fisheries scientist, Baban Ingole said.
The fish which is edible grows to a maximum size of 35 cms, and is also used by some in bait fishing.
G B Sreekanth, a fisheries scientist with ICAR, Old Goa confirmed that its habitat is predominantly coral reefs. “We have spotted it several times in Grand island and it moves in schools, but it is rarely found in fish catch,” he agreed.
An excited 32-year-old Pednekar, who has been plying his ancestors occupation, said he thought it was a bangdo. “I also showed it to my 65-year-old father, but he, too, has never seen it in his life time,” Pednekar said.
Reduction in movement of fishing and other transport vessels and a cleaner environment may have induced the fish to move out of their common habitat.