Tuesday 23 April 2024

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Economy | Fishing

Uniform fishing ban for coastal states ?


If what is told to the high court is true, then all the five states on west coast would have uniform dates of ban on mechanised fishing in the Arabian sea, from 10 June to 15 August, very shortly.

The fact was brought to light by Adv Norma Alvares, the environmental activist lawyer, while pleading in support of the public interest litigation filed by a citizen against preponing of traditional ban on fishing at the cost of spawning and breeding period for the sea fish.

While admitting the petition on Wednesday in continuation of the interim order passed earlier to ban fishing till 15 August, the high court has fixed the next hearing on 16 October, when Adv Alvares has assured to produce necessary documents regarding the uniform dates of the ban.

According to what the environmental lawyer disclosed before the court, the union secretary, fisheries had informed all the five states - Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala - way back in May 1999 regarding the decision to follow the uniform ban.

"The decision was taken at the Southern Zonal Council of Fisheries at a meeting held in September 1998 to follow the uniform dates from 10 June to 15 August, which was later conveyed to all the states by the central government in May 1999", says Adv Alvares.

Incidentally, all the states were following different dates for the ban on fishing by mechanised boats due to which there were complaints of intrusion by the local fishermen in almost all the states. Goa's trawler owners had in fact had taken the excuse of Karnataka trawlers coming and fishing in Goan territory during the ban period.

On the contrary, the Maharashtra government had seized many Goan trawlers, who were found to have been fishing in foreign territory, including one trawler owned by sports minister Francisco Silveira. The Goa state Assembly has at least four trawler owners.

The issue had arisen after the high court, acting on a public interest litigation, had 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 National Institute of Oceanography had however recommended the ban till 31 August, based on a study conducted as per high court instructions.

To counter this move, the ongoing monsoon Assembly session had then unanimously passed an amendment bill, fixing the ban period from 1 June to 24 July, while also barring any court from reviewing it. The bill was obviously not assented to by the governor.

Adv Alvares had had then filed a contempt petition against the state for not implementing the ban as trawler had continued fishing in spite of the ban. The court then cancelled licences of all the mechanised boats and did not permit them to use fishing jetties for fishing activity.

Though this could restrict the fishing activity till 15 August to certain extent, the powerful trawlers lobby managed to get the government take a cabinet decision last week, fixing the ban period from 1 June to 31 July, extending the earlier date by seven more days.

"You need not talk to fishes, we know when the fish comes and when it breeds", said chief minister Francisco Sardinha, when asked whether the dates are fixed based on any kind of study. "It is a via media we have worked out between the NIO study and the fishermen's' demand", he added.

Though the government has then filed an affidavit on Wednesday based on the cabinet decision, Adv Alvares has strongly objected to it, arguing that it would neither satisfy the ecological requirement of the sea life nor the interest of traditional fishermen from the coastal state.

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