KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the Union Minister of Agriculture to constitute a committee to conduct an inquiry into the loss suffered by the Government of India on account of the misapplication/non-implementation of the Letter of Permission scheme under which foreign vessels are permitted to carry out fishing in Indian waters.
The HC also directed the Centre to submit the report within six months and publish it on the ministry’s website before taking appropriate action. “The GoI should consider this report while framing a new scheme and ensure there is a proper accounting system for the sea wealth that is being caught from the exclusive economic Zone (EEZ)” the court said.
The directives were passed on a petition filed by M K Salim who alleged foreign deep fishing vessels have been looting India’s sea wealth by transferring the catch through mid-sea transshipment, giving a go-by to LoP.
Under the LoP, a permission for foreign vessels to operate in Indian EEZ is issued once the owner surrenders its registration in the country of origin. The petitioner alleged Indian firms have been acting as proxy owners of the ship for commission by the foreign firm that sell Indian fish in the international market.
It was submitted many of the LoP holding Indian companies transfer the catch mid-sea either to ships which have facilities for onboard processing or to bunkers in the nearby ports of Maldives, Sri Lanka and other Southeast Asian destinations.