Fishing rights row

Goa trawler owners' protest against fishing ban during monsoon proves to be a damp squib

By Frederick Noronha
Published: Tuesday 15 October 2002

in what is turning out to be an annual ritual, trawler owners in Goa tried to water down the monsoon ban on fishing. But their efforts proved futile. The trawler owners, agitated over the ban which prohibits the use of mechanised vessels for fishing during the rainy season, had threatened to block the sale of fish in the local markets.

Their ire was specifically targeted at traditional fisherfolk who, as opposed to them, are allowed to fish during the monsoons due to their low-powered gear boats. Not surprisingly, the threat to prevent the sale was met with stiff resistance from the traditional fisherfolk community.

Fishing by mechanised vessels is prohibited in Goa from early June to August 15. But trawler owners, a powerful lobby in the state, have been unsuccessfully trying to have this stipulation waived. Officials find it difficult to police the influential trawler owners, some of whom are politicians. Eager to start fishing again during the rains, trawler owners argue that the period from July 15 to August 15 is the bumper season for prawns -- especially the 'solar' prawn.

In July 2001, local news reports pointed out that some trawler owners continued their fishing operations in several parts of south Goa in violationof a high court ban on mechanisedfishing vessels. The report said that trawlers were seen within 200 metres of territorial waters, despite 'strict warnings'. Even the government, under pressure from the trawler owners, had sought a modification of the interim order. Meanwhile, with soaring prices and depleting resources, fish eaters in the state are feeling the crunch.

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