KOCHI: With the alleged harassment by the Fisheries Department officers on the rise along the Kerala coast, fishing boats from the state have now started to berth at Tamil Nadu harbours causing huge losses to the Kerala market.The seafood business at the three major harbours of Kochi, Vypeen and Munambam - recording a turnover of Rs 3 crore a day - has now come down to Rs 1.25-1.5 crore, Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal, general secretary of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, told Express. Diversion of boats to Tamil Nadu harbours has caused the loss in allied sectors too, especially the fuel consumption.
"Boats operating from Kochi used to consume 45-50 loads of diesel a week. This has also come down to 25 loads per week. One load is 12,000 litres. The state government is losing nearly 40 lakh by way of sales tax owing to reduced diesel consumption alone," Xavier said.At the same time, Tamil Nadu is welcoming the boats by providing necessary facilities for them. Around 70 per cent of boats from Kochi alone have now started berthing at Tamil Nadu harbours with their catch, where they do not face any difficulties," he said.
According to boat owners, officers are harassing fishermen mainly in the name of colour code and licence. "It may be noted licence is not required for mechanised boats to operate in the deep sea. The licence is issued for fishing along the coast. What is required for mechanised boats is registration with the government and most boats have the mandatory registration," Xavier said.
Seafood exporters have also expressed concern over the issue. "Such an issue has come to our notice. Though the real crisis is yet be felt in the industry, it will definitely have an adverse impact on seafood export from Kerala in the near future, if the situation prevails," said Alex K Ninan of Baby Marine International, who is also the president of the Kerala chapter of Seafood Exporters Association of India.
The exporters are already reeling under shortage of stock owing to various reasons. The gap in requirement is often met with cultured fish from farms in Andhra, where aquaculture is thriving with government support. Once the leader in seafood export, Kerala is gradually losing its upper hand owing to various reasons.
Meanwhile, S Mahesh, additional director of Fisheries, said the allegations are baseless and there is an attempt to sabotage implementation of the Conservation Act. "The department intensified action as suggested by the Central Government. As per the 2017 amendment of the KMFR Act, a fine for violators has increased in proportion to the capacity of the engine," he said. He also said the fishing boats require both licence and registration to operate. "While registration is one-time, licence has to be renewed every year," he said.