KOCHI: The Fisheries Department and the fishermen community are quite upbeat about the latest amendment to the Kerala Marine Fisheries Regulation Act, 1980.The amendment has been introduced to regulate overfishing and netting of juvenile fishes in close-shore territories which would help conserve fish population in the state. According to the amendment, the engine capacity of fishing vessels will be regulated to 200 hp for close-shore fishing up to 12 nautical miles. Similarly, vessel size will be regulated to a length of 20 m. The amendment also mandates boat building yards and units manufacturing fishing gears be registered with the Fisheries Department.Fishermen feel the amendment will bolster the state’s fisheries sector.
“Bringing in the amendment was important as the annual catch has been dwindling over the past several years,” said Charles George of Matsya Thozhilali Aikyavedi.“The new amendment will bring a sea change in fishing. In 2012, the annual catch of mackerel was 3.99 lakh tonnes. Last year, it dipped drastically to 45,000 tonnes. We had been frequently demanding the government bring in a regulation to prevent overfishing. Similarly, juvenile fish are netted on using banned nets,” he said.Charles said the new rule for the amendment is yet to be finalised.
“Once the rule is declared, there will be more clarity on the amendment. The decision on phasing out boats above 200 hp and more than 20 m long will be clarified,” he said.C I Rajeev, Deputy Director, Fisheries Station, Vypeen, said the new amendment was brought in after taking everyone in the fisheries sector into confidence. Several rounds of meeting with fishermen, boat owners, boat builders and others were held before introducing the amendment, he said.
“Several high-capacity boats are engaged in overfishing in permitted territory. Though pelagic nets are already banned, some vessels have been found using it. The new amendment will help prevent such illegal activities. There will be uniformity in boat building and units manufacturing illegal gear can be curtailed,” Rajeev said.Not everyone is happy with the new amendment, though. Boat owners claim the new regulation will further bring down the fisheries sector in Kerala.
“Due to such regulations, several boats have already shifted to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. A daily revenue loss of `1.5 crore is being reported from Kochi, Vypeen and Munambam harbours. Around 50,000 persons directly involved in the fisheries sector are affected. Boat yards are now being shifted,” said Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary of All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators.
He said overfishing and netting of juvenile fishes are taking place off-shore. “Now even small boats prefer to spread nets off-shore. We do not think the regulations will have any good affect on fish population,” he said.