KOCHI: Apprehensions over non-representation of fisher organisations in the panel constituted to draft the National Marine Fisheries Policy (NMFP) have aggravated, with the stakeholders being kept totally in the dark over the draft policy and the terms of reference even as a consultation meeting is slated to be held on Thursday.
Leaders of fisher organisations fear that the consultation meeting would be an eyewash, and suspect ulterior motives behind the hurry in finalising the policy.
“The invitation to the consultation meeting was served at the eleventh hour, that too without any reference to the draft document to be discussed,” alleged fisher organisations.
“There is lack of transparency in the whole affair, and we have strong reservations over it,” said Kerala Malsya Thozhilali Aikyavedi president Charles George.
“The terms of reference of the expert panel headed by Director General of Indian Council for Agricultural Research Dr S Ayyappan, which was kept a secret from the stakeholders, deceived the purpose of constituting the seven-member committee. It should be reasonably doubted that the consultation with stakeholders would just be a ploy to legitimise the policy recommendations that have already been cooked,” he said.
“Recently, the panel had drawn flak after it held a consultation meeting in Mumbai,” said National Fish Workers Forum (NFWF) secretary T Peter.
“Certain individuals are in a hurry to get the policy drafted in order to safeguard their interests. There is an air of mystery over the whole proceedings. There is a strong feeling among the fishers that the panel would recommend continuation of grant of Letter of Permit (LoP) and joint ventures for deep-sea fishing, which has been vehemently opposed by fisher organisations for a long time,” he stated.
“The absence of transparency in drafting the policy should be read in the context of the government announcing a slew of objectionable proposals and projects recently, including formation of the Coastal Economic Zone,” added Peter.
- 1994 D Sudarshan committee
- 1996 P Murari Committee
- 2004 Dr K Gopalan Committee
- 2014 Dr B Meenakumari Committee
■ No document was provided prior to the consultations. Kept in the dark over the draft policy
■ Consultation a futile exercise to hoodwink fishers
■ Why review the potential and distribution of fishery resources in the Indian EEZ as such a review was done in 2011
■ The B Meenakumari Committee in 2014 had the same terms of reference given to the present panel chaired by Dr S Ayyappan
■ Despite the BJP’s proclaimed policy of cancelling LoP and joint ventures for deep-sea fishing, the government allowed continuation of LoP, and 41 vessels continue to operate
■ No review conducted on the reports by earlier panels on marine fisheries sector
■ 3,895 stakeholders responded to the 85-point questionnaire given by the Dr S Ayyappan panel. An overwhelming majority of respondents demanded cancellation of deep-sea fishing permits to vessels under the joint venture scheme
■ There was a near-total agreement when it came to equipping local fisher communities for deep-sea fishing, instead of engaging foreign players.
Terms of reference of the expert panel
■ Review the potential and distribution of fishery resources in the Indian EEZ.
■ Ascertain the present status of exploitation of marine fishery resources by various sectors, namely traditional, mechanised and deep-sea fishing vessels
■ Suggest fleet size for sustainable exploitation of fishery resources
■ Review the existing guidelines for operation of fishing vessels in the Indian EEZ for exploitation of unutilised deep-sea fishery resources
■ Consult various stakeholders before preparing the draft NMFP and to suggest the roadmap for implementation