ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Strategy of Zoning in Marine Fisheries: Evidence from Kerala

During the 1970s and the 1980s Kerala's marine fisheries witnessed several distributional conflicts between the traditional and the modern fishing units. As a remedial measure, zoning was introduced which prohibited mechanised fishing in the inshore waters and proscribed mechanised fishing during monsoons. This study presents a theoretical analysis of the measure and analyses the available data to comprehend its impact upon fisheries. It finds that zoning has had a positive impact upon the resource distribution patterns, but that it would offer only a short-term solution if the larger problems are left unaddressed.

SPECIAL ARTICLEmarch 1, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly60
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW march 1, 200861Strategy of Zoning in Marine Fisheries: Evidence from KeralaWilliam JoeThis study is a part of the MPhil dissertation of the author carried out at Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram and has largely benefited from discussions with V Santhakumar, John Kurien and Pranab Mukhopadhyay. An earlier draft of this paper has benefited from the comments received from J P Platteau, Catherine Guirkinger, R N Bhattacharya and P R Gopinathan Nair as well as from participants at the South and Southeast Asia Econometric Society meeting held at Chennai during December 16-18, 2006 and the Development Convention of Southern ICSSR Institutes held during the same year. The comments of an anonymous referee are also acknowledged.William Joe ( is a research scholar at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.During the 1970s and the 1980s Kerala’s marine fisheries witnessed several distributional conflicts between the traditional and the modern fishing units. As a remedial measure, zoning was introduced which prohibited mechanised fishing in the inshore waters and proscribed mechanised fishing during monsoons. This study presents a theoretical analysis of the measure and analyses the available data to comprehend its impact upon fisheries. It finds that zoning has had a positive impact upon the resource distribution patterns, but that it would offer only a short-term solution if the larger problems are left unaddressed.Marine fisheries fulfil the subsistence requirements of a vast population and offer enormous potential for fisheries-based development in coastal regions. In order to exploit these opportunities social planners have empha-sised several policy alternatives including technological upgradations (modernisation efforts) and the provision of the means to finance them. At this crucial juncture of intervention, developing countries have often witnessed conflicts between tra-ditional and modern fishing units due to problems of resource allocation and appropriation. These problems have by and large preoccupied the social and political circles across several deve-loping countries. Scholars have largely attributed this to the pre-occupation of development planners with technological and economic rationalisation, at the expense of understanding the inner logic of the existing traditional or small-scale fisheries [Emmerson 1980; Panayotou 1982]. The call for developing countries to make the best use of the EEZ1 regime (introduced in the 1970s) also have played an impor-tant role in hastening the process. To avoid such problems, a priori schematising of workable and efficient institutional requirements becomes necessary. This, if disregarded, might generate two major problems; firstly, technological dynamism creates inequality among resource users in terms of resource har-vest and transfers adversities to the traditional sector in the form of intensified levels of privation and inequality; and secondly, unrestrained expansion of the modern technology sector, or unsustainable fishing practices, generate various detrimental externalities which, left unattended, would sooner or later, lead to resource degradation and depletion. These events tend to aggravate distributional conflicts between the traditional and the mechanised fishing sectors.During the late 1970s and the early 1980s, the marine fisheries of Kerala (along with several other Indian states, including Tamil Nadu and Goa) endured several analogous distributive impediments. Traditional fishermen asserted that modern (and detrimental) resource-harvesting techniques increased turbidity in the sea bottom thus causing destruction of aquatic habitats and spawning grounds in the inshore waters. These det-rimental externalities adversely affected the traditional sector leading to sharp declines in the harvest. Besides, the traditional sector also complained of nasty incidents of gear entangle-ments and destruction due to increasing encroachments of mechanised boats into inshore waters. Altogether, such mount-ing adversities provoked the traditional sector into organising themselves and insisting on state intervention to safeguard
WpreZ W FZ OM1 tZ 1 tpreZ
SPECIAL ARTICLEmarch 1, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly64mechanised sector, they are able to harvest a lesser amount of fish. This change is indicated as a decline in the harvest of the traditional fishermen from OT1 to OTpreZ. Accordingly, the corre-sponding income levels of the traditional fishermen decline and also their welfare (as depicted by the point of tangency between TpreZYpreZ andWpreZ). Importantly, it must be noticed that the fish harvest possibility set becomes non-convex as it gets pulled to below the line F1t1F2.Theoretically, zoning provides a solution to overcome the non-convexity problem arising from the presence of detrimental externalities. Thus moving out the mechanised boats from the vicinity of traditional fishermen’s zone emerges as an ideal and efficient solution. This effect is demonstrated in the south-west quadrant which plots the symmetrical fish harvest set but intro-duces the zoning effect through the harvest set FztzF1. To elaborate, the reduction denoted byF2Fz for the mechanised sector arises out of the fact that zoning restricts their area of operation and reduces the overall size of their harvestable stock. Since zoning reduces the harvest area available for mechanised boats all of FztzF1 lies belowF1F2. The end point F1 which corresponds to har-vest capacity of traditional fisherman remains unaffected by zon-ing regulations. Now, if the mechanised sector harvests the same OM1 amount of fish the traditional sector is able to catch OTz level of fish, which is greater than that during the pre-zoning scenario (OTz>OTpreZ). However, the question whether OTz≥OT1 remains ambiguous because it depends not only upon the magnitude of pre-zoning damage caused to the fishing grounds, but also on the effectiveness of the zoning policies in facilitating stock regenera-tion. Nonetheless, the welfare dimensions can be easily under-stood by tracing the output back to the north-east quadrant with the help of the 450 line present in the south-east quadrant. The post-zoning incomeOYz thus yields the budget constraintYzYz and corresponds to a relatively higher welfare level of Wz. 3 SomeEvidenceAvailability of information regarding fish prices and input details as well as reliable catch statistics are required to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the problem. Unfortunately, non-availability of data in terms of comparable and disaggregated information pertaining to various aspects of the fisheries, turns out to be a major constraint for applying robust empirical tech-niques. This section, therefore, undertakes a descriptive analysis of some important information on fisheries in order to draw some vital inferences regarding the effectiveness of zoning. The data for this descriptive exercise are largely obtained from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) and various fisheries reports and publications brought out by the government of Kerala. In addition to these secondary sources, certain other studies are also cited, wherever necessary, to complement the discussion and to substantiate the conclusions drawn from the analysis presented below. It was highlighted earlier that some untoward externalities might have existed in the two sectors which caused problematic catch-sharing experiences during the late 1970s (Figure 2). From an empirical perspective, the extent to which the abrupt and disturbing downfall suffered by the tra-ditional sector could be ascribed to ecological factors inde-pendent of the appropriation or technological externalities cre-ated by the mechanised sector remains unclear. In the absence of clinching evidence, we drop the pursuit of this question and proceed to draw inferences on the impacts of zoning upon the fishing sectors.3.1 Inter-Sectoral Catch DistributionA quick review of the overall catch distributions (average fish catch) during the three decades (1970s-90s) shows that the non-motorised sector incurred major losses in the process of fishery development (Table 1). This reduction was experienced not only in relative terms, but also in absolute terms. The average annual catch of non-motorised fishermen declined from the level of just below three lakh tonnes to a mere one lakh tonne in the 1980s. This decline continued and by the end of the 1990s, the non-mo-torised crafts were accounting for less than 5 per cent of the aggregate catch of the fishing sector. The non-motorised crafts which used to harvest 10 tonnes per craft during the pre-zoning period (1970s) were left with an average annual catch per craft of just over a tonne by the early 1990s. Similar trends are also reported by Koriya (2005). According to him, the non-motorised sector which caught 1.28 tonnes annually per fisherman in the early 1980s were harvesting a mere 0.32 tonnes in 1990.A major chunk of the present non-motorised sector is concen-trated in the southernmost tip of the Kerala coast [GoK 2007]. Their operations here could be largely attributed to topographi-cal features. Also, major economic disadvantages in terms of lack of employment alternatives, low opportunity cost and persistent poverty have compelled many to continue struggling for their livelihoods with non-motorised crafts. Meanwhile, it appears that a larger number of non-motorised fishermen sneaked them-selves to motorised fishing. Especially, after 1980 the use of out-board motor engines became widespread, a practice which cre-ated a separate class of motorised fishermen within the tradi-tional sector. This motorised fleet was purported to compensate for the declines in catches the non-motorised sector had been experiencing. In the 1980s this motorised sector was appropriat-ing around 38 per cent of the total catch, which implied an annual average of 1.5 lakh tonnes during the 1980s.It was inferred earlier that the implementation of spatial restrictions on the mechanised sector must have benefited the traditional sector. But, it is often claimed that spatial zoning restrictions were proving to be ineffective to safeguard the inter-ests of the traditional sector. However, this claim seems to be valid only in the case of the non-motorised fishermen (Figure 1). Nonetheless, it could be argued that under conditions of increas-ing competition from mechanised units, spatial restrictions alone were inadequate to protect the traditional sector and was argua-bly a reason behind the institution of temporal zoning introduced Table 1: Sectorwise Average Annual Catch and Catch Shares – 1970s, 1980s and 1990s Average Annual Catch (in tonnes) Share in Total Catch (in %)Sector 1970s1980s1990s1970s1980s1990sNon-motorised 2,91,140 99,130 23,924 77 25 4Motorised -1,53,6472,77,253 -4049Mechanised 89,173 1,41,109 2,71,032 23 35 47Source: Estimated fromCMFRIand Government of Kerala (various years).


organisations like

Total Demersal Pelagic
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW March 1, 200867made to analyse the major determinants of catches as per differ-ent types of resources. In the case of pelagic resources, only the coefficient for temporal zoning turns out to be significant, whereas other variables accounting for effort and technology do not bear any statistical significance. In the case of demersal resources, only the increased effort by the mechanised sector bears a statistically significant parameter, whereas technical progress and temporal zoning, though bearing expected signs, turn out to be insignificant. However, this is not a surprising result particularly when considered against the fact that zoning largely allowed for the regeneration of some important pelagic resources such as sardines or mackerels and mainly one impor-tant demersal type namely, penaeid prawns. As far as determinants of the prawns harvest are considered, Model A hints that only temporal zoning had any real impact. Therefore, even after dropping the rest of the variables while running ModelB, the explanatory power of the model remains largely unaltered. For the species of oil sardines and mackerels it is found that temporal zoning had positive impact upon the harvest of both these resources but that in the latter’s case the increased catch effort in terms of the number of trips for the motorised sector also turns out to be significant.4 PolicyIssues The recent catch figures for Kerala do not show much deviation from the trends of the 1990s except for the fact that the mecha-nised sector has become a bit more prominent. In 2006 Kerala registered a total catch of 5.92 lakh tonnes which is fractionally higher than the 1988-2005 average of 5.74 tonnes. In this overall catch the mechanised sector grabbed the lion’s share (56 per cent) followed by the motorised (42 per cent) and the non-motorised (2 per cent) sectors. Among different types of fishing gears, ring seine units seized 49 per cent of the total catch withtrawls appropriating a share of 33 per cent [CMFRI 2006]. However, beneath these figures lie hidden certain prominent concerns regarding the declining catch per unit effort and increasing technological heterogeneity, particularly in the traditional sector.4.1 Declines in Catch Per TripThe problems of declining catch per unit effort have been echoed across the motorised sector since the late 1990s; now the mecha-nised sector is also resonating similar worries. Notwithstanding the absence of appropriate information to undertake a more com-pelling exercise, we make an attempt here to arrive at the conclu-sion made above. Table 5 provides some information in terms of the average catch per trip during 1991-95, 1996-2000 and 2001-05, for the mechanised as well as the motorised sectors. The calculations made here assume three different annual frequen-cies for fishing trips: the motorised sector is assumed to under-take 150, 180 and 210 trips in a year and the mechanised sector is supposed to undertake 120, 150 and 180 trips during a fishing year. The obtained estimates suggest that early 1990s was a favourable period for fishing as it provided good average catch per trip (in terms of fish in kg/trip). Depending upon the frequency of trips, the average catch per trip for the motorised sector ranged between 80 kg and 110 kg, whereas in case of the mechanised sector it ranged between 375kg and 565 kg. These encouraging catch figures must have definitely acted as an attraction for the investors. Therefore, because of increased investment, by end of the 1990s, the catch per trip of the motorised sector had almost reached one-half of its earlier level. This declining trend has kept continuing for the early part of the present decade as well. In the mechanised sector the average catch per trip kept on increasing during the whole of the 1990s; but they are also beginning to show small but signifi-cant declines in the 2000s.Such declining estimates of the catch per trip raise apprehen-sions regarding the performance and the economic viability of the different sectors. Although, it may appear that the mecha-nised sector is harvesting a reasonable quantity of fish per trip, once the figures are adjusted for the number of fishermen on board as well as for their effort in terms of total fishermen hours, it is plausible that these small declines observed in Table 5 would turn significant. Similar opinions have been put forth or sup-ported by some other empirical studies as well [Thomas and Hridayanathan 2006; Koriya 2005]. For instance, Thomas and Hridayanathan (2006), after analysing catch per unit effort across different gillnet fishing sectors in Kerala, conclude that there exist no direct relationship between catch per unit effort and level of technology used and that the attributed association turns out to be negative, if catch per man hour is considered. However, more research is required to find out whether because of such problems arising in the sector, has it reached or is moving towards the problematic open access equilibrium.These recent concerns regarding the declining catch per unit effort indicate a sluggish manner of management as a result of which the positive returns of the early 1990s have subsided Table 4: Regression Results for Catch Determinants for Different Types of Resources Resource Type Prawns Pelagic Type Pelagic Demersal Model A Model B Sardines MackerelsVariables ParameterParameterParameter Parameter Parameter Parameter (t-value) (t-value)(t-value) (t-value) (t-value) (t-value)Constant 6,93,584* -60,451 17,11036,067***6,91,390* 1,79,812 (1.83)(-0.73)(0.51)(12.44)(2.01)(1.16)Temporal zoning 21,607*** 29,618 19,508* 19,236*** 1,34,346** 56,185** (3.50)(1.29)(1.88)(4.47)(2.40)(2.21)TI mechanised -29,834 2,230 -3,885 --25,895 -10,850 (-1.47)(0.34)(-1.23)(-1.40)(-1.30)Mechanised trips -1.001 0.340* 0.054 --1.161 -0.392 (-1.18)(1.80)(0.68)(-1.51)(-1.13)Motorised trips 0.028 ---0.002 0.036** (0.72) (0.008) (2.23)F-statistic for model 6.32 23.01 7.01 20.01 4.13 11.25R-squared 0.6780.8110.5390.5000.5790.789Adjusted R-squared 0.570 0.776 0.462 0.475 0.439 0.719N 172022221717*,** and *** represent significance level at 10 per cent, 5 per cent and 1 per cent level. Temporal zoning are dummies resembling the respective ban period regulations. TI is the crude index for technology for the mechanised sector.Table 5: Average Catch Per Trip (in Kg) for Motorised and Mechanised Sectors as Per Assumed Number of Annual Trips MotorisedMechanisedYear 150 Trips 180 Trips 210 Trips 120 Trips 150 Trips 180 Trips1991-95 113.8 94.681.2565.4 452.2 376.61996-2000 71.459.650.8 611488.6407.42001-05 67.25648.2585.4 468.4 390.6Source: Estimated by author using data from various publications of CMFRI and government of Kerala.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmarch 1, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly68because of unprecedented expansion in catch effort. It is neces-sary to devise alternative means to manage the traditional sector as it can be no better be checked by the government than the mechanised sector. In this regard, various scholars have advo-cated the establishment of an efficient property rights system which would be able to address the distributional and open access problems.Community-based institutional arrangements may have some functional virtue in devising regulations as well as reducing the cost of enforcement. Countries like Norway and Iceland offer good learning experiments of community-based arrangements [Kurien 1998; Brochmann 1983], whereas possibilities of design-ing community-based tradable quotas could also be explored [Santhakumar 2003]. The prospective fisheries market condi-tions during the 1990s have inevitably crowded-in investments in the motorised sector. Therefore, some attempts should be made for cautiously promoting and distributing fishery credit to find solutions to the problem. For instance, credit for direct invest-ment in fishing should be regulated, whereas policies for better marketing should be encouraged in disadvantaged fishing locations and markets. More importantly, better marketing meas-ures could help cover the fishing expenses as well as to recover investment costs.4.2 Increasing Technological HeterogeneityDespite inadequate support for viability and profitability of big-ger fishing units, technological advancement has grown unchecked under conditions of keen competition. It has ushered in an era of overcapitalisation of the sector, wherein increasing investments are made in high-powered motors and huge-sized fishing nets to make up for seasonal fluctuations as well as to recover initial investments. Koriya (2005) provides some useful insights into the quantum of investment per fishermen which is estimated to be around Rs 7,500 in the non-motorised sector, and which increases rapidly in the other sectors and sub-sectors (Table 6). In proportional terms, the per fisherman investments in motorised small-scale sector, motorised ring seine sector and mechanised sector are around 5.68, 10.33 and 33.43 times, respectively of those of fishermen in the non-motorised sector. The estimates of Koriya (2005) regarding the annual har-vesting cost of Rs 1,441 crore (excluding labour cost) is margin-ally under the total fishing income of the state of around Rs 1,600 crore. Amid such huge investments, it is worrisome to note that hardly any accompanying increase in aggregate fish catch is experienced. Though the overall turnover in fisheries remains high because of price increments, profitability levels do not show a promising picture. This finding also emerges from the recent survey conducted by the Directorate of Fisheries about the inputcost and income profiles across Kerala’s fishing sectors [GoK 2007]. The foregoing discussion shows that the motorised sector is also getting subdivided into two important segments, one segment being the small-scale motorised section using low engine power and the other using bigger crafts (many using inboard motor engines) for ring seine operations and is often comparable with mechanised boats. Such bigger fishing units which fall beyond the jurisdiction of zoning restrictions are attracting huge investments and could pose a threat not only to small-scale fishing units, but also to resource conditions as well. Although zoning was intended to provide an equal entitlement to a uniform group of technology users (the traditional sector) but exogenous technological progress has brought in heteroge-neity and economic inequality within the traditional sector. Therefore, from a policy perspective, it is imperative to compre-hend such ongoing divisions within the traditional sector. In this regard, revision of the zoning regulations becomes crucial for including some of the traditional sector units in its framework. In order to further enhance the benefits of zoning it is suggested that the period and duration of temporal zoning, should be decided in a manner that would facilitate the maximum regen-eration of resources and their economic worth viewed in a dynamic perspective.5 ConclusionsThis study has analysed the effectiveness of the zoning mecha-nism as a solution to the twin problems of resource distribution and degradation, as witnessed in Kerala. Such an exercise has not only offered valuable insights into the performance of the institution, but also suggested methods for improvisation it. This study finds that though zoning has turned out to be a wise and effective policy, its positive impact is being negated by certain contemporary unpleasant developments. These problems are mainly observed in the form of a huge expansion in catch effort and increasing technological heterogeneity within the fisheries sector. In the light of the emerging problems, it appears that the fisheries sector is apparently wrestling with them silently manner for two important reasons: firstly, as compared to the problem of the 1980s, the nature of the present problem is different. The ear-lier problem was an outcome of the detrimental technological externalities generated by the mechanised sector whereas the new one (as well as the emerging issue) is an appropriation prob-lem within the traditional sector. Now, despite a declining aver-age catch per craft and per fishermen hardly any loud protests Table 6: Estimated Annual Cost of Fishing in Kerala’s Marine Waters(in Rs crore)Investment Category Capital Intereston Depre-MaintenanceOperating Total InvestedCapitalciationCostCost**Annual (15% pa) (10% pa) Input CostNon-motorised units 36.787 5.518 7.357 3.679 – 16.554 N=15,015 Investment/unit=24,500 Life span- 5 years Motorised small units 151.800 22.770 30.360 15.180 136.620 204.930 N=10,120 Investment/unit=1.5 lakh Life span- 5 years Motorised ring seine units 464.250 69.638 58.031 46.425 278.550 452.644 N=3,095 Investment/unit=15 lakh Life span- 8 years Mechanised units 676.500 101.475 56.375 67.650 541.200 766.700 N=4,510 Investment/unit=15 lakh Life span-12 years Total 1,329.337 199.401 152.123 132.934 956.370 1,440.828**Operating costs: (Rs 750*180 days*10,120 motorised small units), (Rs 5,000*180*3,095 ring seine units), (Rs 15,000*80*3,095 mechanised units).Source: Koriya (2005).

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top