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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Agriculture Ministry clarifies on rights of fishermen

NEW DELHI: Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday issued a clarification regarding the rights of fishermen and fishing ban. The clarification is as follows:

1. Imposition of Fishing ban within 12 nautical miles is the subject of the State Governments, which is imposed in the interests of the livelihood of fishermen. The Fishing ban of different periods have been imposed by the coastal State Governments since last two decades; For example, West-Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala impose ban of 47-days (applicable from 1988-89); in Odisha it is 60 days (applied since 2000); Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa impose ban of 67 days (effective from 1989-90) and Daman & Diu are imposing ban of 75 days, whereas in Karnataka it is applied for 57 days. In fact, Kerala was the first state to impose fishing ban in its territorial waters in the country. Coastal State Governments have been advised to follow the same duration of uniform Fishing Ban within their territorial waters (of 0 to 12 nautical miles) as it is implemented in the EEZ (12 to 200 nautical miles) adjacent to their territorial waters. In case where some State(s)/UT(s) prefer to implement a different Fishing Ban Period in their territorial waters, they have been advised to reach 61 days ban period in their territorial waters gradually within a period of 05 years for the purpose of ensuring uniformity.

2. As far as the fishing ban in the area of EEZ (beyond 12 nautical miles) is concerned, it was earlier applied for period of 47 days. However, it was observed that it was not matching with the ban period of different states, as states were also implementing different fishing ban in their waters. Because of the gap in between the fishing ban periods of different states and EEZ, boats of one state were entering into the waters of another state, thereby causing disputes. Considering the above situation, it was decided that a uniform ban of 61 days will be applied in the area of the Indian EEZ (beyond 12 nautical miles to up to 200 nautical miles). The above proposal was agreed to by all the coastal states/UTs except Kerala. However, it is also a fact that Kerala, itself had previously applied the fishing ban of 61 days during 1988, and ban of 67 days during 2006 in its territorial waters.

3. It may also be mentioned that Fishing Ban in the EEZ has been increased from 47 days to 61 days based on the recommendation of a Technical Committee of scientists that was constituted under the Chairmanship of the Director, CMFRI, Cochin. The said Committee was formed during May 2013, i.e., at the time of the UPA Government. The Committee in its report has recommended for fishing ban in the East Coast from April 15 till June 14 (61 days), and from June 1 to July 31 (61 days) in the West Coast.

4. A meeting was held on March 18, 2015 by the Union Agriculture Minister with the ministers / officials of the coastal State / UT Governments and it was unanimously decided to have the same dates for commencement of fishing ban in the East and West Coast. It was agreed during the meeting that in the East-coast states the ban will commence from April 15, while in the west-coast the fishing ban will be implemented from 1st June. However, within their territorial waters of 12 nautical miles, the States will decide their own fishing ban “period” and applicability of fishing ban on “type of boats” as per their own convenience. During the meeting, all the coastal states/UTs (except Kerala) have given their consent for extending the period of fishing ban from 47 days to 61 days. However, Kerala was of the opinion to impose fishing ban of 47 days.

5. The UPA Government, in August 2013, had also constituted an Expert Committee under the chairpersonship of Dr Meena Kumari, and the Committee in its report has suggested that fishing by foreign vessels or through Joint ventures may be considered to tap the un-utilized fishery resources available in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) till the requisite capacity is developed in our country. However, the present Government has categorically rejected the above suggestion after consulting the Ministers and senior officials of all coastal States.

6. We should be aware that the fishing ban has not been imposed for the first time or by the current Government only, but it has been imposed over the past two decades, with the motive to ensure conservation of fish during its breeding-period, so that fishermen can get the maximum benefit. Otherwise, the fish productivity will decrease, and the damage will be caused mostly to the traditional fishermen. Fishing ban is imposed during the monsoon-season, and as the sea becomes turbulent, the fishing ban is necessary to protect life of the fishermen.

7. The Central government is allowing foreign fishing ships is completely untrue. Whereas, it was a Committee constituted during previous government that has suggested to allow foreign vessels, which has not been considered by the present Government. No foreign fishing vessel is allowed in Indian waters irrespective of any ban period. Besides, in case, any foreign vessel is found engaged in illegal fishing in the Indian waters, the Indian Coast Guard is taking strict action against such vessel and it is punished as per the law, which includes seizure of foreign vessel(s) and its arrest of its crew members.

8. As far as issue of Letter of Permission (LOP) is concerned, it is informed that this practice was started in 2002, and continued since then. It is clarified that LOPs are issued only to Indian entrepreneurs for acquisition and operation of resource specific deep-sea fishing vessels and not to foreign fishing vessels. The LOP vessels are allowed to fish only in the area of EEZ, beyond territorial waters.

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