Tuesday 23 April 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Economy | Fishing

Coastal states for uniform fishing ban


At least three coastal states - Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka - appear to have agreed upon uniform period for fishing ban from 10 June to 15 August, while demanding uniformity all along the western as well as eastern coasts of India.

"Let us accept the recommendation made way back in September 1998 at the meeting of the Southern Zonal Council of Fisheries held in Mangalore to follow this uniform period", said Dr V Somvanshi, director general of the Fisheries Survey of India.

Presiding over the two-day workshop on sustainable fishery management organised by the National Institute of Oceanography here, he also informed the gathering that Government of India is coming out with a comprehensive policy on fishing as a whole, for coastal as well as deep sea fishing.

Like how the big fish always eats up the small fish, a similar trend was witnessed also among the fishermen. At the seminar, the traditional fishermen complained against mechanised boats for taking away their catch while the trawler owners blamed the perseiners, who accused the deep sea fishing vessels for taking away their catch.

Besides marine scientists as well as local fishermen - traditional and mechanised, senior fisheries department officials from Maharashtra and Karnataka also participated in the seminar, which was organised at the initiative taken by Goa governor Mohammad Fazal.

The trawler owners here were on a warpath when the Bombay high court, acting on a public interest litigation, passed an interim order on 20 July, extending the ban on fishing activity till 15 August while the government was restricting it to 24 July. The Assembly had then amended the act to this effect, but the governor refused his assent.

"It was a mistake on our part that we got carried away, without realising its consequences", admitted deputy chief minister Dayanand Narvekar in his concluding remarks at the workshop as there was unanimity that ban must last till 15 August in order to allow spawning period for the marine life.

Around one lakh Goan families spread in eight talukas are in fishing business while fish is a chief component in the diet of 95 per cent locals. Sustainance of the business however is a problem since the number of boats has increased from only 10 in 1963 to 4386 today while fish production is declining - 85,000 T in 1995 to 63,000 T last year.

While Maharashtra already follows the ban period till 15 August, Karnataka still follows the old Goa pattern of banning fishing till 31 August. The union secretary, agriculture, has however sent a circular in May last year to all the five states - Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala - to follow the uniform dates decided in Mangalore.

"It should be made applicable to all, from traditional fishermen to the deep sea fishing vessels", suggests Bernard D'Souza, a trawler owner. Dr Nandkumar Kamat, an environmentalist, suggested an inter-state agreement in order to bring uniformity.

Countering the claim made by Dr Somvanshi that the ban period of respective states is also made applicable to the joint venture vessels respectively, Nitin Salkar, another mechanised boatman, alleged that the big vessels do not abide with any such ban regulations.

While shifting the deep sea fishing sector from food processing department to the fisheries in a new policy, Dr Somvanshi however also informed that the centre has decided not to issue new licences to any new venture, besides the existing 20 vessels.

Expressing serious concern over the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) has exceeded by over 50 per cent than the maximum harvestable yield, the workshop has also made several recommendations including re-estimate total potential and exploitable fishery resources group-wise for all commercially important species of fin fish and shell fish.

Suggestions are also made for sustainable fishery management, including stock enhancing measures like sea ranching and mariculture, declaring inshore waters as nursery grounds as well as seeking funds for pilot projects of coastal management studies, besides providing economic stability for all categories of fishermen even by waiving interest on loans during the ban period.

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