SRINAGAR: Widespread use of gillnets has reduced fish population in Valley rivers and streams to an extent that fishermen in some areas are now shifting to mining sand for livelihood.
A gillnet is a wall of netting that hangs in the water column, typically made of nylon. Mesh sizes are designed to allow fish to get only their head through the netting, but not their body. The fish’s gills then get caught in the mesh as it struggles to free itself.
The net is placed, like a tennis net, across the breadth of the river in the evening. Next morning, gillnetters reap the harvest. Gillnets catch fish of all sizes that come in its contact.
Fishermen from the fishing community in Gopal Ghat area of Pattan said they have stopped fishing in Ferozpora Nalla because the catch was negligible.
“Gillnetting decimated carp population in the Nalla. The men from our community now mine sand in Jhelum in south Kashmir,” said Ghulam Nabi, an elderly fisherman from Gopal Ghat.
Fayaz Ahmad, a youth from the area, said the fishermen are to blame for the phenomenon.
“We did that proverbial folly…we cut the branch on which we were sitting. It is our greed that has brought us to this state,” he said.
Yamin Alaqaband, a yarn dealer in Zaina Kadal, said that traditionally fishermen used to make cast nets from twine they would buy locally. However, gillnets come readymade and are smuggled into the Valley by fishermen. This has also hit fishing twine sales.
Nahida Akhtar, assistant director fisheries Srinagar, told Kashmir Reader gillnetting is banned under law.
“Initially, the fishermen are overwhelmed by big catch but they soon realise that it is ruinous in the long run. Gillnetting hampers natural breeding of fish,” she said.
The fisheries department collected a fine of Rs 24,800 from people using gillnets in Srinagar alone last fiscal and Rs 27,100 till December last year. People caught fishing with gillnets can be fined with a minimum of Rs 500.