Amid unending conflicts, two-month fishing ban comes into effect in coastal Tamil Nadu

In an effort to prevent mid-sea clashes, the fisheries department and law enforcement agencies intervened and took action against pair trawling vessels.
Amid unending conflicts, two-month fishing ban comes into effect in coastal Tamil Nadu

NAGAPATTINAM: Amid continuing conflicts between Tamil Nadu and Puducherry fishers, the 61-day annual fishing ban for eastern coastal states came into effect on Friday. For a period from April 15 to June 15, fishing communities in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and the Union Territory of Puducherry will be banned from venturing into the sea, so as to give time for the fish to breed.

Over the past ten months, the Sri Lankan Navy continued to crack down on fishing boats from Tamil Nadu for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line and fishing in Sri Lankan waters.

Over a hundred mechanised boats from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry seized during the past few years remain impounded or attached by Sri Lanka despite multiple letters written by the two chief ministers to the Union Government.

"We demand that the governments take concrete action to retrieve our vessels before they are damaged or sold or made useless in Sri Lanka," said RMP Rajendra Nattar, a fisher-representative from Nagapattinam. In January 2023, the Supreme Court of India lifted the complete ban on purse seine net fishing, allowing fishers to use purse seine net fishing under conditions that the users can fish twice a week - Monday and Thursday, at specific times between 8 am and 6 pm.

The court also ruled that the purse seine net users should fish within the Exclusive Economic Zone but outside Territorial Sea waters. The ruling intensified conflicts between those in favour of and against the purse seine nets, especially in Nagapattinam, Mayiladuthurai, Cuddalore and Puducherry districts, and protestors have appealed against the verdict citing loss of fish resources and break down of law and order.

"We request not to allow the purse seine fishing net as it is impractical to monitor its use constantly," said G Devan, a fisher representative from Tharangambadi. Conflicts also arose between Tamil Nadu and Puducherry fisherfolk over the usage of pair trawling fishing, another illegal method. With fishers from Karaikal repeatedly violating the ban, fisherfolk leadership in Nagapattinam warned fishing boats trawling in pairs that they would take the law into their hands and their boats would be seized.

In an effort to prevent mid-sea clashes, the fisheries department and law enforcement agencies intervened and took action against pair trawling vessels. A long monsoon, unseasonal rains and unfavourable weather conditions at sea also affected fishing in the coastal delta, causing fishers to remain in shore for several weeks. "Constant rains have reduced the annual income of boat owners and fishermen alike, and made it hard for them to make ends meet," said M Murugan, a fisher-representative from Arukatuthurai.

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