Ecologically healthy, economically viable fishing given prominence in draft policy

By Anupama Vimal

Sustainable development, economic prosperity, ecological health and food security have been given prominence in the draft National Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture policy, which was recently published.

The draft has been framed by a committee under the Chairmanship of former Director of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Mumbai, Dilip Kumar.

With respect to riverine fishing, the draft policy emphasis on conserving indigenous sources of fisheries and also to restore the natural productivity by means of restoration of the ecosystem. The policy notes that the state governments should give emphasis on habitat conservation. It also says that the production of native species should be enhanced by seed ranching method. It also calls for establishing seed production units the locality. The draft policy underlines that fisheries’ management should be integral to river management.

On fishing activities in the reservoirs, the draft policy state that all fisheries’ management in manmade reservoirs should be handed over to the fisheries departments in the respective states or agencies. It also says that cage culture as recommended by the ICAR institutes should be promoted with respect to reservoir fisheries. Moreover, it also calls for a site-specific action plan for each man-made reservoir.

With respect to fishing in wetlands, the draft policy says that the state governments should take the lead to demarcate them and also take steps to prevent encroachment in these wetlands. It also says that the connection between the wetlands and the rivers should have to be maintained so that ecological integrity is restored. The draft policy also says that the state governments should come up with guidelines for promoting culture based fishing in the wetlands.

The draft policy that was published in February says that separate legislation and different policy should have to be evolved for the Himalayan as well as the North Eastern states.

On aquaculture development, the draft policy envisages that the state governments should develop action plans of their own. The states should prepare an integrated coastal aquaculture development plan for each district. It also emphasis on forming aquaculture zoning and also its development in low-lying areas, lands with saline/alkaline soils and lands not suitable for crop cultivation. It also says that fisheries could be made an integral part of agriculture. Apart from this, the draft policy also notes that mandatory registration of aquaculture farms was needed. Moreover, it also calls for simplifying the legal requirements for farm registration. In the draft policy, it has been said that screening of seed for causative organisms before stocking should be strictly implemented. A regulatory framework for inland aquaculture on the lines of Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) is also recommended in the policy.

On exotic species, the draft policy calls for regulating any type of such species under the existing laws.
In the draft policy, it has been said that the benefits of institutional finance like insurance and credit that is given to agri farmers should be extended to fish farmers. It also calls for forming state level interdepartmental coordination committees for coordination and cooperation for the development of the fisheries and aquaculture.
On leasing of village ponds and tanks, the revenue department, as well as other agencies, should ensure that these water bodies are utilised to the maximum. Moreover, leasing and licensing guidelines and procedures should be reworked, the draft policy says.

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