Conservation and Management of Fishery Resources Using Geographical Information System

M.Jayanthi and P.Nila Rekha

GIS for fishery development

GIS and remote sensing can be for development, monitoring and management of fishery industry

INDIA has a vast coastline of 8118 km distributed in nine coastal states and four union territories with a estuarine area of 3.9 million ha and 3.5 million ha of back waters. Though India contributes about 40 % of the fish landings of the Indian ocean, when viewed against the world production of 130 million tons, India’s contribution is only 5.65 million tons (2.83 million tones from marine fisheries and 2.82 million tones from Inland fisheries) representing about 4.37 % only. The increasing demand for fishery products and the need to exploit marine resources in a cost effective manner, emphasized the importance of application of modern techniques.. There is urgent need to identify, conserve and manage potential fishery resources for long term benefits.

Now, the coastal areas in India experience wide range of problems like population pressure, environmental degradation, urbanization and industrial development. Aquaculture has been shown to offer high potentials to fill the gap between supply and demand for fish products for the ever increasing world population. Globally, aquaculture has been growing rapidly in the last decade, approximately at 10-15 % per year. The success of shrimp farming witnessed in the early nineties opened up the floodgates for investments in shrimp farming projects and this trend was strengthened by the adoption of the scientific farming technology by a section of private entrepreneurs. With the establishment of more hatcheries in the private sector, the country witnessed a fast rate of development in shrimp fanning. The shrimp farming areas are mainly located in the nine coastal states and the area developed is given in Table 1.

The extent of utilization of resources like creeks, location of aquaculture farms in relation to mangroves, agricultural lands and other important ecosystems needs to be documented to provide the basic inputs for planners to formulate new policies and also to ensure proper use of the resources. In most of the places, the utilization of resources is not quantified. Recent problems faced by the aquaculture industry have emphasized the need for a system which can be used for planning, monitoring and updating the information with a location specific fisheries resource management

Geographic Information System

Geographic Information System (GIS) is a system that is used to input, store, retrieve, manipulate, analyze and output geographically referenced data or geospatial data, in order to support decision making for planning and management of land use and other natural resources (Burrough, 1986). It has a capability to store and manage geographic information comprehensively and effectively based on the use; to do query analysis and evaluate for the particular cause. Satellite data with GIS is the only modern tool potential in monitoring of coastal resources such as mangroves, estuaries and other landforms.

The sources of geospatial data are digitized maps, aerial photographs, satellite image and other related documents. GIS maps are tied to databases and they know exactly where they are on the face of the earth. Some of the PC based GIS software like ERDAS Imagine, Arc INFO, Arc VIEW, Arc GIS, Geo media professional, IDRISI, SPAN, CGIS, etc. GIS and remote sensing technology can be combined to provide accurate information. The timely inputs of natural resources distribution from satellite data analysis will help decision makers for better management of resources. The steady advances in features and power of the hardware over the last ten years and the decrease in hardware cost have made GIS technology accessible to a wide range of users.

Identification of potential fishing zones

Using satellite data, methodologies have been developed for identification of areas rich in fish biomass through the estimation of phytoplankton density and sea surface temperature Forecasts on fish school locations are now broadcasted through All India Radio to enable fishermen in coastal regions to go for fishing in these areas. Potential fishing zone information derived from NOAA, AVHRR sea surface temperature (SST) from National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) Hyderabad is disseminated to the coastal fishermen. The feed back from the fishery community indicates that this information is more useful to locate fish abundance for better catch and minimize the fuel consumption and time. The monitoring of sea surface temperature from earth orbiting infrared radiometers is the technique of marine remote sensing which has the widest impact on oceanographic science. Correlation has been established between certain characteristics of water masses, such as up welling and fishery resources

Mapping of natural resources

The primary base for economic development can be laid if natural resources are quantified. Yet most of the countries including India do not have enough knowledge about the nature, quantity and location of their resources. Most of the places are inadequately mapped and national planners rarely incorporated current and accurate information based on latest scientific and technological tools in planning process.

Most of the problems faced by the shrimp industry in the recent past could have been avoided if planning and site selection were done properly. To do proper planning, we need to know the location and quantity of our land resources. It is necessary to accurately assess the land resources so that it can be incorporated with site selection parameters and Supreme Court’s directive to identify the potential resources and monitor the existing shrimp farms.

Identification of potential sites for brackishwater aquaculture

Proper site selection for settingup aquaculture farms and monitoring them are very important management measures, which can mitigate negative impacts. An earlier estimate identified about 1.2 million ha of coastal land as suitable for brackishwater aquaculture but this should be rechecked with the recommendations of the aquaculture authority. The availability of potential area needs to be reassessed and proper sites for brackishwater should be identified for sustainable shrimp farming.

The major areas of applications in the management of coastal resources included mapping of tidal wetlands, coastal land forms, suspended sediments, understanding the process of estuarine dynamics, shoreline changes, generation of coastal currents, internal waves, degradation/improvement in mangroves and coral reefs. Since the management of natural resources is a continuous process to keep abreast of resource utilization patterns and intensity so as to conserve them for posterity.

Evaluation of impact of fishery development on environment

Recent events in the shrimp culture sector of various countries have demonstrated deterioration of shrimp farms and culture sites, increasing incidence of diseases, contamination of aquatic products, abandonment of farms, and specially conflicts among common users of land and water resources. The changes that occurred from one class to other class like agriculture, mangroves etc to aquaculture can be identified with area statistics and these changes will be useful in policy decision making process. Land cover maps or vegetation maps classified from remote sensing data can be overlaid onto other geographic data, which enables analysis for environmental monitoring and its change.

GIS and remote sensing can be combined to provide accurate information which will be useful for development, monitoring and management of coastal environment. The timely accurate information of natural resources from satellite data will help decision makers for better planning and management of resources.


1.  Burrough P. A. 1986 ‘Principles of geographical information system for land resources assessment’, Clarendon press – Oxford pp.6-12
2.  FAO, 1996 Technical guidelines for responsible fisheries, No.#, Rome.
2. Ramachandran,S., S.Sundaramoorthy, R.Krishnamoorthy, J.Devasenapathi and M.Thanikachalam. 1998. Applications of remote sensing and GIS to coastal wetland ecology of Tamil Nadu and Andaman and Nicobar islands with special reference to mangroves Current Science, 75(3): 236-244.

Table 1. Area under shrimp farming

State Potential     Brackishwater   area Area developed
Andhra Pradesh 150000 66701
Tamil Nadu 56000 4455
West Bengal 405000 49050
Orissa 31600 12828
Kerala 65000 13990
Karnataka 8000 4426
Gujarat 376000 898
Goa 18500 930
Maharastra 80,000 687
Pondicherry 800 150
Total 119000 154115

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