KOCHI: At a time when a provision in the Draft National Mariculture Policy to lease out special zones in the sea for mariculture has triggered a controversy, the fishermen unions have demanded steps to ensure the right to fish and manage fisheries to the community.
The fishermen representatives will raise this demand in the stakeholders’ meet convened by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) on Saturday.With the government setting an ambitious target to achieve a fish production of 18 million tonnes by 2030, there is a need to promote aquaculture in view of the depleting marine stock. The annual fish production of the country stood at 10 million tonnes in 2017.
“We accept there is a need to promote mariculture to meet the market demand. It will provide alternative income and ensure sustainable livelihood to the community. However, the provision to lease out special zones in the sea will lead to the entry of corporate firms to the field and turn the open sea into a conflict zone. So, the government should provide exclusive rights to the fishermen cooperatives to conduct cage farming, bivalve farming, pen culture, seaweed culture and other mariculture activities in the open sea,” said Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi state president Charles George.
Meanwhile, Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation has vehemently opposed the move to allocate demarcated zones in the open sea for mariculture. “It is a venture that needs huge investment and fishermen will not be able to take up the project. This will lead to the entry of corporates into the sector and displace traditional fishermen from the coastal areas,” said federation state president T Peter.
Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma had convened a meeting of various fishermen organisations ahead of submitting the state’s opinion on the policy. According to the fishermen, the minister agreed to convey the demand to give exclusive rights to fishermen cooperatives.
“The suggestion to give primary right to conduct mariculture activities in the open sea to fishermen will be considered. The fears of the community will be addressed. Some fishermen unions have raised concern that cage culture will lead to increase in juvenile fishing as small fish varities are used to manufacture fish meal. The suggestion to ensure sustainable fishing practices is key to the mariculture policy,” said CMFRI principal scientist Sunil Mohamed.