Delay in probe to save foreign fishing vessels?

The delay of a month in completing the investigation into the alleged illegal fishing by ten Chinese vessels in Indian waters has drawn flak with allegations that it was an attempt to save these foreign vessels.

It was on June 7 that the ten Chinese vessels alleged to be illegally fishing in Indian waters sought shelter in Ratnagiri in Maharashtra due to Cyclone Vayu. “So it is almost a month that the Chinese fishing vessels are docked here. Why the delay of a  month in checking just ten boats?,” asked National Purse Seine Fishermen Welfare Association chairman Ganesh B Nakhawa, who was the first to take up the issue with the authorities.

Pointing out the authorities had only checked four of the total ten boats now, he said “it is quite surprising that the authorities could only check four boats. There is a purposeful delay in completing the probe.”

Ganesh also alleged that the authorities may be thinking of letting off the fishing vessels by delaying the investigation. “They might be thinking that no one would be interested in the issue after some time, which they believe could buy them enough time to let off these vessels,” he said.

He doubted that these vessels could be framed as illegal and blacklisted and then sent back. “But we do not want the boats to be sent back after black listing them. The government should confiscate the boats. The crew should be let off as they have nothing to do with this as they are just poor workers. We have nothing against the crew,” he said.    

Noting that there was enough evidence to confiscate the fishing vessels, Ganesh said “The Maritime Zones law of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act, 1981, stipulates that fishing vessels without license have to be confiscated. The Chinese vessels have no valid license. To fish in International waters, these vessels should have to be registered with IOTC. The ten vessels that have sought shelter have no such registration, which means that they were doing illegal fishing in international waters.”

He also alleged that the authorities had not yet come out with a report on the details of the Chinese fishing vessels. “Why is that they are hiding the details and whom are they helping?’ he asked.  

He also said that the Fisheries Ministers of the coastal states should be taking the lead in asking the Centre about the illegal fishing by these foreign vessels.

Ganesh also alleged that the authorities were not ready to register any complaint. “I had taken up the issue with the Coast Guard and Local Police but they are not ready to take complaints saying that they are international vessels and does not fall within our law,” he said.  

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