Fishing bill on hold

Government to consult fishers

By Sumana Narayanan
Published: Friday 15 January 2010

Mounting  protests against the proposed marine fisheries bill has put the Union agriculture ministry on its back foot. The bill restricts fishing in the deep seas and imposes stiff penalty on those violating the law. On December 16, the ministry issued a press release assuring the bill would be finalized only after consulting fishers and states. But fishers are not convinced.

The Marine Fisheries (Regulation and Management) Bill, 2009 bans fishing up to 200 nautical miles without permits. Indian vessels, though, can fish without any permit up to 12 nautical miles. The bill also allows the government to impose a fine up to Rs 9 lakh on anyone caught without permit. Fishers feel this would make it easy for authorities to harass them. “Traditional fishers usually go with the current and inadvertently stray into forbidden territory, the bill would curtail their customary rights,” said T Peter of Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, a fishers’ body in Kerala.

The government says traditional fishers will not be targeted. Its concern is national security and curbing illegal and unreported fishing. From January 2010, all catch exported to the EU would require a catch certificate that traces the origin. The government made marine products export development authority the nodal agency for catch certificates.

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