Spanning an area of 61 sq km, the Ashtamudi lake is considered the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala. While the lake on the outside radiates with natural beauty, there is a notable treasure nesting deep within its waters--the short-neck clams.
The clams are biofilters and a healthy clam population cleans the entire lake in 139 days. In 1991, approximately 10,000 tonnes of clams (annually) were mined from the estuary but by 1993, the catch had declined by a whopping 50 percent due to overfishing. Overlooking this indiscriminate fishing resulted in the steady deterioration of the lake’s overall health and a drop in the quality of clams in the region. This had a negative effect on the trade and the income of the local fishermen.
The depletion of the clam population by half in the Ashtamudi estuary pushed small scale fishermen to adopt sustainable practices. The Ashtamudi estuary provides the livelihood for as many as 3000 locals. The estimated value of fishery resources of this lake is approximately Rs 985 million ($16.4m), of which, around 51 percent comes from the trade of clams. Apart from being an asset for the trade and sustenance of the local fisher population, these clams play a key role in maintaining the health of the waters and the bioactivity within.
With guidance from experts, the community came together to respond to the circumstances that led to the depletion of the clam population in the lake. To avoid further destruction, they adopted sustainable practices like maintaining a minimum mesh size of their fishing nets to avoid catching juvenile clams, prohibiting mechanical clam fishing that resorts to mass and indiscriminate fishing practices and deciding on a fishing holiday during the breeding season every year to help replenish the clam mass.
Thanks to the efforts of the community and the government, nature was given a chance to revive itself resulting in the clam population slowly limping back to their original number. This improved the condition of the lake as well as that of the locals depending on it for their livelihood.
But these efforts are not enough. There is a need to invest more in nature to improve not only the biodiversity but also our sustenance.
‘Lets Invest in Nature’ (#LetsInvestInNature) is a special series of video stories designed by the Indo-German Biodiversity Programme. It is dedicated to estimating and mainstreaming the true economic value of biodiversity in business-related decisions and policy making. Watch this short video for more information.