KOCHI: Registering protest against the deep Sea fishing policy and guidelines, which allegedly allows foreign fishing vessels to operate freely in the Arabian sea, around 1,500 fishing boats will picket the Kochi estuary in January. The agitation is being organised by the Kerala State Boat Operators Association (KSBOA). Office-bearers of the Association alleged that the new guidelines would make the Arabian sea barren in just five-ten years. “As per the guidelines set by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, foreign fishing vessels can operate in the Arabian sea without any regulation. They are allowed to come close to the shore, which could even affect coastal fishing.
According to the guidelines, the vessels can be operated up to 12 nautical miles off the coast. “This is going to have a drastic impact on the lives of 12 lakh fishermen who make a living by fishing,” said KSBOA general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal. “The government has neither included any provision in the guideline regarding the number of vessels, nor specified the number of vessels that can be operated in the Arabian sea. While boats in Kerala keep off the sea during the trawling ban period every year, there is no restriction on the foreign vessels. We fear that the foreign vessels would have ‘seeped’ everything by the time the monsoon trawling ban period ends. Unregulated fishing is going to affect not only the fishery resource, but also the entire marine bio-diversity,” he pointed out.
The expert committee for the ‘Comprehensive Review of the Deep Sea Fishing Policy and Guidelines’ had recommended that since India lacks adequate expertise or resources to exploit the waters beyond 500 metres, technology transfer through acquisition of foreign fishing vessels and, or, joint ventures leasing may be considered for that area until the domestic capacity is fully developed. It is further stated that the waters beyond 500 metres of depth are not optimally exploited, and there was considerable scope of expansion in that zone.
The panel also recommended that the Central Government and the State Government act together to agree upon management policies and measures needed for the sustainable exploitation of resources. Joseph Xavier also said that the picketing of the estuary was just a token strike. “We are in talks with fishermen organisations in other maritime states on expanding the agitation to national-level,” he said.