The much awaited Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management Bill has got a larger acceptance with a few concerns raised by the stakeholders in the fishing sector, who want a deeper discussion before the Bill was enacted.
After having waited for years for a national level fishing bill, many in the fishing sector that it was a welcome note that the Centre has come up with such a bill for the growth of the fishing sector.
Noting that the country needed the Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management Bill long time back, National Purse Seine Fishermen Welfare Association chairman Ganesh B Nakhawa opined that the government should not delay in passing the Bill.
“We have already waited long. The government should not hesitate in this. It is for the good of the fishermen as well as for the whole sector that such a bill is being introduced,” he said.
In his opinion, everything related to fishing should come under the provisions of the Bill. “Not only fishermen but all those who are related to the fishing sector should be brought under the Bill. The traders, exporters, buyers and even consumers should be brought under the Bill.
He was also of the opinion that there should be only one licensing/registration body in the country. All boats, be it mechanised or traditional or small ones, should be brought under this one body. “Now also small boats (called as traditional boats) fitted with good engines venture deep into the sea even beyond 12 nautical miles. So there is no difference now of traditional and mechanised as all oats are mechanised now and go deep into sea,” he said.
With respect to security aspect, he said that the Bill envisaged tracking system of all boats that would help in added security. Moreover, he also opined that the Bill could help in driving out foreign vessels from the India’s territorial waters.
Though welcoming the Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management Bill, the National Fish workers’ Forum has come up with some reservations, stating that that the Bill contained certain provisions that adversely affect the traditional fishermen. Forum General Secretary T Peter was quite critical of a Single body to manage the whole territorial waters of the country.
“As of now, the states have control over fishing activities up to 12 nautical miles. But the new Bill proposes a single body to control over all the Exclusive Economic Zone,” he said. Stating that this was not going to be of any good to the traditional fishermen, he said that it was not practical.
Noting that many of the traditional boats (small mechanised ones) in many states go beyond the 12 nautical miles, he said that the proposal to get licence or registration for fishing much deeper into the sea was not practical. Moreover, the traditional fishing crafts cannot afford to get the specifications mentioned for getting registration or license to fish in deep sea.
He also opined that the provisions in the Bill should have more stringent provisions to check foreign ships. Peter was also critical that the bill did not address the issues related to fishermen such as their traditional rights, livelihood, job security among other things.
Welcoming the Bill, All Kerala Fishing Boat Owners Association General Secretary Joseph Xavier said that there were some clauses that are harmful to the fishermen and the fishing sector. “Our opinion is that this Bill should be made into a law only after wide discussions with all stakeholders. It should not be implemented all of a sudden,” he said.
Noting that no State government can control deep sea fishing, Joseph Xavier said that they were of the opinion that the centre should come up with a separate body or agency for monitoring the fishing vessels. “Only a separate Central agency would help in management of the vessels and even tapping of fish resources. This Central Agency should be made the licensing authority,” he said.
He was also of the opinion that the fishing vessels should have a separate code, other than that of the merchant vessels.
Xavier also said that the bill should have to come up with provisions for helping the growth of the fishing sector