KOCHI: Giving in to pressure from traditional fishermen and mechanised boat owners, who had threatened to stop fishing operations, Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma agreed to slash the permit fee by half for mechanised boats here on Friday. For country boats of 25 m or more in length, the fee has been reduced from the proposed Rs 52,500 to Rs 15,000. The minister, who met representatives of fishermen unions and boat owners’ associations, sought the cooperation of all stakeholders to regulate the size of fishing vessels and standardise fishing gear in a bid to stop over-exploitation of marine resources.
The Fisheries Department, which increased the permit fee for mechanised boats from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 last year, had extended the 10-fold hike to traditional fishing sector this year, which triggered a wave of protest across the state.
“Representatives of fishermen unions have complained that the hike in permit fee was unbearable. Considering the complaints, we have decided to slash the permit fee by half. As per the revised rates, mechanised fishing boats with a length of more than 25 m have to pay Rs 25,000 instead of Rs 52,500. Modified inboard country craft involved in pelagic fishing have to pay an annual permit fee of Rs 15,000,” Mercykutty Amma told Express. She said the permit fee for country craft was hiked as part of the government policy of regulating the size of fishing vessels operating near Kerala coast.
“There is an unhealthy competition among fishermen to increase the size of fishing boats, which has led to spiralling boat building cost, which has crossed Rs 1 crore. The increase in investment has landed traditional fishermen in debt trap and the government wants to support them. The state government had approached the Centre seeking aid to encourage traditional fishermen to take up deep-sea fishing. Though the Centre agreed to provide Rs 16 crore we are yet to get any aid,” she said.
Munambam Boat Owners’ Coordination Committee chairman P P Gireesh said the Minister assured that an order reducing the permit fee would be issued within two weeks. The Fisheries Department will not insist on permit fee till the new rates are announced, he said. “We had a fruitful discussion with the minister, who assured to look into our grievances and reduce the permit fee,” said Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi president Charles George.