Fishermen in Pulicat complain that polychaete worms are being illegally fished from the lake and smuggled to Andhra Pradesh.
The lake, which functions as the natural sanctuary for migratory birds due to the presence of mangrove trees, is also home to a variety of marine species, including 160 types of fish, prawns, crabs and 25 types of polychaete worms. Polycheate worms are known as friends of fishermen as sea fishes come in search of the worms in the lake, resulting in a big catch of quality fish by fishermen.
Nearly 40 fishing hamlets depend on the lake for their livelihood, said Gajendran, a resident of Ponneri.
However, since sand has piled up on the estuary, the lake has been separated from the sea. While the villagers have submitted several petitions to authorities concerned to remove the sand dunes, they have been in vain as it has allegedly paved way for miscreants to illegally fish polychaete worms and smuggle them to Andhra Pradesh.
“Smugglers send villagers to fish the worms and buy it for Rs 800 per kilogram. Later, they transport it to Andhra Pradesh and sell it to prawn farms there for Rs 5,000 per kilogram. It is similar to the felling of red sanders using innocent people and smuggling them.
On March 6, the Fisheries Department had organised a meeting with fishermen to discuss ways to curb smuggling of polychaetes. But it was cancelled due to the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kancheepuram district. Since then, no steps have been taken,” said Vinothkumar, another resident.
The lake is under the control of various departments, including Fisheries, Forest, Revenue, Coastal Guard. But the officials were not available for comment. Villagers want to put an end to this illegal smuggling of polychaetes as it would affect their livelihood.