Traditional fishing is any kind of small scale, commercial or subsistence fishing practices using traditional techniques such as rod and tackle, arrows and harpoons, throw nets and drag nets, etc. Traditional fishing techniques will vary considerably in detail from region to region. They depend for their success on local and indigenous knowledge, much of which has been passed down from generation to generation through a strong oral tradition. Traditional fishers normally use catamarans and dug- out canoes for foraging into the sea for fishing.
Commercial fishing is the capture of fish for commercial purpose. Commercial fishing gears are described briefly under active, passive and other miscellaneous fishing gears.
- Active Fishing Gears
- Surrounding nets: It is roughly rectangular walls of netting rigged with floats and sinkers which after detection of the presence of fish are cast to encircle the fish schools. These nets are operated generally in the surface layers. Eg: Purse siene
- Seine nets: Seine net is long wall of netting with or without a bag supported by a floats and sinkers which are operated by surrounding areas of water with potential catch. The net is operated by the ropes attached by the end of wings which are used for hauling and for herding the fish. Eg: Boat seines/Danish seines
- Trawls: Trawl nets are conical bags net with two wings and a cod end where catch is concentrated, operated by towing from one or two boards.
Based on the position in water column where it is operated, trawls are classified in to bottom, mid-water or pelagic trawl.
Based on the opening of the mouth, classified into beam trawl and otter trawl
Based on the number of boats used, classified into one-boat trawl and two-boat trawl or pair trawl or bull trawl.
Based on the number of trawls operated from a single vessel classified into double rig trawl, triple rig trawl and quad rig trawl.
- Dredges: Dredges are dragged gear, with an oblong iron frame with an attached bag net, operated on the bottom usually for collecting shell fish.
- Hooks & Lines: Fishes are enticed by edible or artificial bait or which simulates the appearance and movement of natural prey and are finally held by the hook concealed in the bait or lure. The hook is connected to a line or snood. The fish is also held by piercing action of hooks or jigs passing nearby. Eg: Pole & line, Jig line (squid jigging), Troll line.
- Lift net: Lift net consists of horizontal netting panel or a cone shaped bag with the mouth facing upward, which are submerged and lifted either manually or mechanically to filter the fish in the overlying water column.
- Falling gear: It is cast over the area where fish is available, then gathered and lifted to collect the fish. Eg: Cast net, Cover coat, Lantern net
- Passive Fishing Gears
- Gill nets and entangling nets: Gill nets are rectangular walls of netting kept erect by means of floats and sinkers positioned in the swimming layer of the target fish, which catch the fish by holding them in the mesh by gilling.
Entangling nets loosely hung single or multi-walled netting held vertically in water by floats and sinkers, which catch fish entangling rather than enmeshing. Nets are usually attached end to end to form large fleets.
- Traps: Traps are passive fishing gears with enclosures to which the fish are lured or guided and from which escape is made difficult by means of labyrinths or retarding devices like funnels or constrictions.
- Hooks & Lines: Fish are enticed by edible bait or lure and finally held by the hook concealed in the bait or lure. The hook is connected to a line or snood.
Long lines when set close to the bottom are called bottom-set long lines when set in surface and midwater with freedom to drift with the current are called drifting long lines; when set vertically, they are called vertical long lines; when combining the properties of bottom and vertical long lines they are called bottom vertical long lines.
- Fishing without gear: Gathering of animals by hand picking or by simple implements such as shovels, picks or knives, with or without the support of diving equipment; and fishing by using trained animals or birds such as cormorants are included in this category.
- Stupefying methods: It includes the use of poison or under water explosives to paralyse the fish. These methods are prohibited in responsible fisheries.
- Grappling and wounding gear: Sharp implements such as clamps, tongs, lances, bow and arrow, harpoon and rifles are used for catching fish by wounding, grappling and killing.
- Electrical fishing: Effect of pulsating electric field on fishes such as first reaction, electrotaxis(anodic attraction), electro-narcosis and electrocution are utilized in electrical fishing equipment.
- Harvesting Machines: Sophisticated, modern systems like fish pumps which are used to mechanically transfer fish attracted and concentrated by light in the proximity of the vessel; mechanical dredges which make use of hydraulic jets and conveyors or suction equipment for harvesting mollusks; and fully automatic long line systems in which every step in the shooting and hauling operation including baiting and removal catch are automated, could be included in this category
- Technology used for fishing
- The technology used among the traditional fisher folk of Kerala for catching fish such as the fishing craft and the gear are traditionally evolved and differ according to the needs of the specific local fishing conditions. For example, the south has multi species and dispersed fishery, which requires multiple gears. The fishermen in this area mainly use the traditional boat called as the Catamaram while going out individually, in pairs or in groups of three (Houtart and Nayak, 1988).
- The Catamaram
- The Catamaram is made up of two or three logs of wood tied together with coir ropes. The rope is tied around a cross piece of wood in the shape of stumped bull horns placed at the end of the logs. Small gaps are purposefully left in-between the logs to allow the water to drain thus reducing the impact of waves (Ram, 1991). There are two types of Catamarams. One is smaller with a crew size of two and is used for hook and line fishing such as anchovy, sardine and the prawn nets. Hook and line fishing is more common in the south because of multispecied and dispersed fishing (Ram, 1991, Bhushan, 1979)
In the hook and line fishing, the gear is made of a hook with a line attached to it. The bait lures the fish. The fish gets caught in the barb while attempting to eat the bait and cannot free itself. The gear is very selective in action in catching different species and different sizes of fish. The hook is very important and the size of the hook, the type of the hook used, the type of bait used determines the selectivity of the catch (Shrivastava, 1985)
The larger Catamarams can accommodate 3 to 4 persons and are used in pairs with bell shaped nets (boat seine nets or Tattamadi) having ropes on either side. Two crafts pull the ropes at equidistant angles. On seeing a shoal of fish, the two crafts start moving in the direction of the shoal pulling the ropes and sandwiching the shoal between the two crafts (Iyengar, 1985; Ram, 1991).
- The Vallam
- Another type of a small boat or plank canoe called Vallam is also used for fishing from the shore. It is made up by seaming together several planks of jungle jack by coir ropes. The inside of the boat is coated with pitch to make it watertight (Ram, 1991). There are two types of Vallam. Kettu Vallam is the smaller one and is owned jointly by 6 to 12 fishermen. It is popularly used for hook and line fishing in Trivandrum and Alleppey districts (Iyengar, 1985).
Ottathadi Vallam is a dugout canoe between 10 to 15 metres long, carrying upto 15 members. It is made by scooping out large logs of softwood such as jungle jack or mango. These are owned collectively (Iyengar, 1985). Houtart and Nayak (1988) inform that majority of the fishermen in the South are thus self employed, but there are a few fishermen who remain coolies or labourers all throughout their lives.
The fishermen in the central region of Kerala use larger crafts and gears because of the presence of sand banks and rich fishing grounds. The fishermen here work together in groups. The north has single specied fishing and the craft and the gears used are larger. Houtart and Nayak (1988) write that this has led to polarisation between the big and the small artisenal fishworkers, where the small fishworkers resort to hook and line fishing while others survive as labourers.
- Mechanisation in fishing
- The modernisation of fisheries was started by the government in the 1950s, write Kurien and Sebastian (1982). Before this initiative, fishing was a caste based artisenal activity that used variety of fishing technologies such as crafts and gears according to the local needs. The first phase took place in the form of the Indo-Norwegian project. This project originally aimed at community development and proposed the introduction of small mechanised boats and the construction of harbours in a few villages.
However, after the 1960s, the main focus of the project shifted with an increasing demand for prawns for export markets. Thus, large trawl boats started to be used for harvesting prawns. By the 1970s, the mechanised fleet began to encroach on the territory of the traditional fishermen who continued their own way of fishing. Kurien and Sebastian (1982) argue that, this gradually has led to a gap between the traditional fishermen and the fishermen using newly mechanized fishing boats for prawn fishing. Mechanization has gradually led to the deterioration of the economic condition of the traditional fishermen because of the huge gap between the two types of fishing. This has also led to a gradual decrease in fish quantities as well as changed the traditional patterns of fish drying, processing as well as marketing of fish and thus has gradually led to the marginalization of the traditional fishing communities.