The ocean is an advocate for tranquility; once you enter the water, you expect peace in the quiet. The only sound is that of your own air bubbles and it comforts you. However, nowadays the heavy thud thud thud of the bottom trawlers has seeped into the stillness. Their resonance has become a part of our dives and we have adapted to it. The machinery’s noise is now our silence.
Trawlers are medium-sized, noisy boats that let down fishing nets to drag them through the bottom of the ocean, picking up whatever they can capture even if they don’t need it. Trawling not only results in the devastation of reefs but also entangles many organisms unintentionally. Fishermen have no choice but to drop their bycatch, often deceased, back into the sea. This not only disrupts the food chain and ecosystem but also degrades the surrounding biodiversity and endangers many species. For example, here in Tamil Nadu, whale sharks, who have been declared as an endangered species by the IUCN Red List, are often caught in trawling nets although they are not the target species for fishing.
Our unrightful immunity towards this appalling custom has cost us many dangerous situations: while assisting an Open Water course, I was a mere inch from becoming the collateral damage of a trawler. The sounds had become second nature to us, so when the visibility conditions don’t allow you to see very far, the fishing nets are near invisible. I turned around for barely a second when I suddenly felt a tug on my fins: Pushpak had pulled me down unexpectedly. Only then did I notice the monumental net that nearly swept me away with its already entangled marine life, including corals and a variety of fish and invertebrates. For a few minutes, it wasn’t just the sound of the trawlers in my ears; my heart was pounding just as loud. Finally, I knew what it was like to be part of the ocean, and it was not as tranquil as I thought previously.
If even an experienced diver can be prey to this unsustainable fishing practice, it only reinforces our knowledge of the threat that marine life faces. Trawling does not discriminate, and we must act promptly to ban their use. By encouraging the execution of eco-friendly pisciculture, we can retain what little marine biodiversity we have and promote its recovery. On an individual level, being a responsible consumer supports healthy fishing practices. Many organizations like InSeasonFish publish a calendar with information pertaining to the species of fish you can consume in a particular season, in an attempt to control the demand and supply issue of seafood consumption. After all, an impact on the oceans is an impact on us.
Poster and Infographic by Inseasonfish