Kochi: In a major attempt which would pave the ways for boosting India’s seafood trade, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (ICAR-CMFRI), the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) and the Fishery Survey of India (FSI) have jointly launched a research cruise for assessment marine mammal population of the EEZ. The research initiative assumes significance in the wake of emerging seafood trade-related challenges faced by the fishermen targeting high-value resources and the export market players of India. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA, had issued import strictures of strict adherence to norms laid out in Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of their country, stating that seafood exporting countries should not allow intentional killing of marine mammals in commercial fisheries. For exporting fish and fish products, the US has given a five-year exemption period starting January 1, 2017 to nations for developing regulatory programs by assessing marine mammal stocks, estimating by- catch, calculating by-catch limits, and reducing total by-catch.
A joint initiative of the three major central agencies functioning under different ministries, the cruise is aimed at closely observing and monitoring of marine mammal stocks and scientific interaction, especially collecting oceanographic parameters.
“This research will emerge as a game-changer in conservation of marine mammals and reduction in the interaction of ecologically threatened species by ensuring uninterrupted export of the seafood and enhancing the livelihood of the fisheries.
The mission is expected to lead to the genesis of a pioneering research project conceived and implemented by CMFRI with the financial assistance of the MPEDA and infrastructure support of the FSI ”, said CMFRI Director Dr A Gopalakrishnan.
“This is a project of national importance with global impact, which once successfully completed would place our research status on marine mammals in the select comity of nations”, he said. Dr. R. Jeyabaskaran Principal Investigator of the project and Senior Scientist of CMFRI said: “The project focuses on assessing the status of stock health of marine mammals and all species of sea turtles in Indian waters. Marine mammals and sea turtles play key roles in maintaining marine ecosystems”.
The mission was flagged off by MPEDA Chairman Shri. K S Srinivas IAS in the presence of Dr A Gopalakrishnan, FSI Director General Dr L Ramalingam, and Dr R Jeyabaskaran. The vessel is fitted with a 4 stroke Volvo Penta make 500 BHP engine, OAL (m): 24 & GRT: 268.8. The main deck of the vessel contains cabin for scientists and crew, weather station, galley, mess room and toilet.