Foreign Fishing Vessels plunder Indian waters; Fishermen allege hiding facts on fish wealth

With foreign vessels plundering the fish wealth in Indian Economic Zone utilising scientific knowledge, the fishermen community has alleged that scientists in the country were either ignorant of the real wealth in the oceans or hiding the facts in a bid to help the foreign fishing vessels.

The allegations come in the wake of recent incident in which ten Chinese fishing boats, which are alleged to be fishing illegally in the Arabian Sea, sought shelter at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. Stating that the Chinese fishing vessels had travelled from South China Sea, covering about 18,000 km, to fish in the Indian waters, All Kerala Fishing Boat Owners Association general secretary Joseph Xavier said “we doubt the findings of the scientist at the CMFRI. They are either ignorant about the fish wealth or are helping foreign vessels to plunder our fish wealth.”

He also demanded a probe by an outside agency, including a CBI probe, into the activities of the scientists here. He also alleged that the government was restricting the Indian fishing vessels in the name of depleting fish stocks by pointing out the studies put forth by the scientists. “If the Chinese are able to know about the actual fish wealth here and travel such long distance to fish in the waters here, doubts arise about the studies of the scientists in the country,” he alleged.

 Xavier told that the scientists at CMFRI to whom he had talked about the Chinese fishing vessels in the Arabian Sea and about their knowledge of the fish wealth had not given him a proper explanation. “They have not given an accurate answer to why the Chinese fishing boats know about the fish wealth here when we are not able to trace the fish stock,” he said.

He also pointed out that the government has failed in restricting foreign vessels from illegally fishing in the Indian Economic Zone. “When the government impose lots of restrictions on Indian fishing vessels, the foreign vessels go unrestricted. No regulations are binding on the foreign vessels,” he said.

Moreover, he also pointed out that the exploitation of foreign vessels has a negative impact on the foreign exchequer. “Our fish wealth is being looted and our export and economy is affected,” he said and added that Indian could have been the number one in fish export but China is now leads the world in export.

On the recent incident of ten Chinese fishing vessels seeking shelter at Ratnagiri, Xavier alleged that the government had only facilitated the fishing vessels to enter Indian Territory. Apart from the ten vessels that has docked in Ratnagiri, he alleged that about 50 Chinese fishing vessels were out in the sea and the government has not taken any steps in restricting them till now.

Moreover, he also alleged that the Chinese vessels had illegal fishing gear on board like dolphin catching devices, gill nets and bottom trawl nets. “The fishing vessels equipped with such fishing gears are banned worldwide,” he said.  

Talking to, marine biologist Swapnil Tandel opined that it was time to provide fishermen access to deeper waters for harvesting the underexploited and unexploited resources. He also maintained that there was a healthy stock of squids and tuna in deeper waters as per the study of FSI. However, he said that coastal fishery in India was now under tremendous pressure due to stock depletion, sustainability, illegal fishing activities, lack of resource management, conservation and climate change.  Meanwhile, a scientist with CMFRI, said on condition of anonymity that all the allegations are false. He was of the opinion that the institution always stood for national interest and was concerned with the health of the ocean.

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