The five-month-old ban on hunting and trading in sharks and 52 species of molluscs has been relaxed partly (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 15, December 31, 2001). Considering the livelihood problem of the fisherfolk, the Union ministry of environment and forests recently issued a revised notification saying that the ban has been lifted from over 40 marine species. However, more than 10 shark species, including the whale shark, stays under its purview.
The hunting and trading ban was also lifted from over 28 species of molluscs out of the 52. It continues on the nine molluscs species which are rare. Partial protection has been ordered for 15 varieties, including conch shells, which cannot be hunted but their existing stocks can be traded. The regulation remains in force for sea cucumber and sea horse.
The decision to relax the ban was taken by the environment ministry after a series of discussions with the Central Marine and Fisheries Research Institute in Kochi, the Integrated Coastal Area Management members, the Marine Products Export Development Authority and others.
Earlier, the stringent rule had set the fisherfolk on the warpath. They staged widespread protests and urged the government to review the matter. While the government pointed at the shark's vulnerability and depletion of molluscs in India, the fish workers highlighted the livelihood crisis that they would face due to the ban.
However, reacting to the revised notification, National Fish Workers Forum has said that it would continue its struggle until the ban on the remaining 10 items is also lifted. It has alleged that the ministry seems to have no understanding about the catching of fish by the fisher folk. A press release of the Forum says: "We may escape jail by throwing the 10 banned items of fish back into the sea but it will certainly affect the livelihood of thousands of poor."