Sea mishaps: Expert committee moots formulating separate Fishing Vessels Act

The expert committee appointed by the State Government to study the fish wealth and impact on implementation of trawling ban along the state’s coast has said in its report that it strongly felt the recent spate of open sea mishaps were partly owing to the failure of fishermen to put up appropriate signals.

The committee has mooted creation of a separate Fishing Vessels Act to address the existing problems, to be considered by the Fisheries Department in consultation with the legal cell. The panel also recommended that all seafaring fishing vessels should be fitted with appropriate lights and flags for signalling as per international maritime norms.

“They should also possess Life Saving Appliances (LSA) and fire and fighting apparatus as per sea safety rules. These rules should be made effective immediately,” the expert committee said.

The report submitted by the committee said that most fishermen were unaware of the basic navigational signals while operating at sea. “This is a very significant shortcoming which places our fishermen’s lives at grave and continued risk. There are appropriate signals that are to be put up in the vessel indicating whether the vessel is fishing/cruising/idling etc,” observed the nine-member committee. The committee also expressed its deep concern with the living conditions in the state’s mechanised fishing vessels, particularly those which undertake multi-day voyages. The report said that almost all mechanised vessels did not have basic sanitary facilities such as toilets with flushing cistern systems, kitchen or galley space and sleeping or berthing arrangement.

“The fishermen and crew are forced to live in very primitive conditions which are tantamount to human right violations. All these basic facilities are sacrificed to increase the fish hold capacity. The Fisheries Department has not set any standard for building fishing vessels. All fishing vessels (including traditional) also lack basic navigational lights and other signals,” the committee said.

It recommended that all mechanised fishing vessels with LOA 12m and above should possess toilets, kitchen (galley) and at least five sleeping berths. Another recommendation of the committee is that the under-deck fish hold capacity of these vessels should not exceed 25 per cent of the total volume of the vessel.

“Already registered vessels should get this modification done within the next two years, failing which their registrations should be cancelled,” the report said.

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