India’s short-neck clam fishery in the Ashtamudi Estuary, Kerala’s second largest estuarine system, has entered into MSC assessment. If successful it will be the first Indian fishery and, significantly, one of a growing number of artisanal fisheries seeking certification as a sustainable and well managed fishery.
The fishery will be assessed against the MSC’s Environmental Standard for Sustainable Fishing by independent certifier Intertek Moody Marine (IMM).
About the Fishery
The community-based short-neck clam fishery (Paphia malabarica) is of growing economic importance in the region, with the fishery directly employing up to 1,500 fishers and indirectly contributing to the livelihoods of another 3,000. It is estimated that P. malabarica makes up 12,000-15,000t of the 20,000t of clams caught in the Ashtamudi Estuary, earning the country 10 crore worth of foreign revenue.
Fishers harvest the clams by diving and hand dredging from dug-out canoes, with no mechanical intervention. Community initiatives and collaboration with WWF, Molluscan Fisheries Division Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, District administration, Kollam and the State Fisheries Department have seen the implementation of various regulatory measures. Certification against the MSC Standard would provide market recognition for these efforts.
Products from the fishery are exported as frozen raw, frozen cooked, fresh cooked, fresh raw, freeze-dried and dehydrated to markets in Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Convenor of the Ashtamudi Clam Council in Kollam said, 'Working in partnership has been key to our fishery reaching this point. We started making improvements with support from WWF in 2010, using the MSC Standard as a sustainability measure that we could work towards. The challenges we’ve had to overcome in order to be ready for full assessment have been manageable and we hope that other small-scale fisheries can learn from us that it is achievable. We look forward to the possibility of MSC certification and the continued benefits that come through fishing sustainably.'
Vinod Malayilethu, WWF-India’s Senior Coordinator, Marine Programmes, added, 'WWF has worked closely with the Ashtamudi Estuary fishery, supporting them in making improvements to move towards the goal of entering MSC full assessment. The community places significant emphasis on the sustainability of their resource and has been very receptive to implementing these changes. This commitment would be further rewarded through certification of the fishery.'
MSC increasingly relevant
MSC's Global Commercial Director, Nicolas Guichoux said, 'I am delighted to welcome the Ashtamudi Estuary clam fishery into MSC assessment. The MSC strives to make our standard, and the corresponding market benefits, accessible to all fisheries, while still maintaining the rigour that ensures the long-term sustainability of certified fisheries. That an artisanal fishery, with support from NGO partners, has chosen to pursue MSC certification is confirmation that MSC is increasingly relevant across all fishing sectors and I wish them all the best with their assessment.'
Stakeholders are encouraged to contribute to the fishery’s assessment and will have a number of opportunities to become involved. If you have information to share or would like to take part please contact FCO.Derby@intertek.com.
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