KOCHI: If the first draft of the National Policy on Marine Fisheries 2016 (NPMF) is adopted and adhered to in right earnest, it would put check on the commercial port development in the country which causes ecological and social impacts along the coast.
“Commercial port development is one of the causes for erosion and accretion along Indian Coasts. This is a matter of utmost importance affecting fisher livelihoods. Fishermen's opinion may be taken before such projects are launched in future,” stated the draft of the NPMF, made available for the first time to the public during a consultative meeting here on Thursday.
The stress in the draft policy to consider the opinion of local fishing community before port development, vindicated the apprehensions raised by the fisher organisations of Vizhinjam and other big ports, said T Peter, secretary of National Fish Workers Forum. “Similar policy recommendations were there in the past as well. But the governments tend to overlook them and carry on with bigger ports, at the cost of environment and livelihood of fisherfolk. Not only ports, even the unmindful development of fishing harbours also should be regulated,” he added.
The draft also underscored the need for an alternative mechanism to the Letter of Permit (LoP) Scheme in the deep sea fishing sector, and stated that the scheme did not have “the expected impact in the inclusive development” of the sector. Suggesting an alternative to the controversial LoP scheme, the draft stood for providing skill enhancement support to stakeholders, modernisation of existing indigenous deep sea going vessels and new indigenous vessels. The draft policy also mooted strong Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) regime. “Utilisation of deep sea resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ- between 12 to 200 nautical mile) may have to be reconsidered in terms not only the resources available in the EEZ, but also in terms of infrastructure, human capacity development and a comprehensive and implementable set of rules and regulations with a strong MCS,” the draft read.
The LoP scheme that allowed joint ventures involving foreign fishing vessels, apparently introduced to enhance the capabilities of Indian fishers and to help them learn technology of foreign idustrial fishing in deep sea operations, had been widely criticised by experts and fisher organisations alike.
The draft policy urged the government to control and regulate proliferation of fish meal plants which is a matter of grave concern as it can lead to overfishing of low value fish and bycatch.
Other suggestions of the draft NPMF 2016
➤ Control and regulate fish meal plants
➤ Strengthen MCS in a phased manner using conventional tools, space technology and IT tools
➤ Promote mariculture but watch out for social and environmental impacts
➤ Diversification of seafood products, quality enhancement, traceability of seafood and eco-labelling
➤ Bring in legislations to regulate fisheries in the EEZ
➤ Strong regional cooperation among nations in management and sustainable utilisation of resources