Only a third of the 1,500 trawlers in Dakshina Kannada have implemented the order

Whether it is colour-coding of boats, or issuing of smart cards, fishermen and boat owners seem to be hesitant in implementing the Centrally-mandated security features.

Barely one third of the boats, of the more than 1,500 trawlers that ply from the district, have implemented the colour-code order as dictated by Central and State government.

The order, received by the Fisheries Department in June last year, seeks to colour-code boats in each State to make stray boats identifiable. For Karnataka, the fishing trawlers and boats would have to paint their cabin blue, while the lower and upper portions would be painted black and white. The order seeks to make it easier for the Coast Guard and security agencies to identify boats from afar, reducing the probability of a foreign boat coming to the coast unnoticed.

Fears

Addressing presspersons recently on the sidelines of a beach clean up campaign, R.M. Sharma, DIG Commander, Coast Guard (Karnataka), said the progress was “slow”, especially when compared to other States that have implemented it almost completely. “The deadline has expired, but we can’t be strict about it. The fear among fishermen about colour-coding should be dispelled by the authorities,” he said.

Sluggish pace

However, the Department of Fisheries, which is the implementing authority, said they were helpless in executing the order. “This is a slow process, and has not progressed as much as we expected. We have relied on fishermen or boat owners implementing these voluntarily, but very few are showing interest,” said Suresh Kumar Ullal, the newly appointed Managing Director of Karnataka Fisheries Development Corporation who was previously the Deputy Director of the Fisheries Department.

Though the department has sent circulars repeatedly to boat owners, cooperative societies, diesel depots and the fishermen’s unions warning of penalties if the boats are not painted in standard colours, officials admit that implementing these rules were “difficult” due to the reluctance of fishermen unions.

Smart cards

Though there is relative success in the handing over of smartcards, there are deficiencies which can pose security risks.

Though more than 16,000 fishermen have been given smart cards, around 2,850 fishermen who had enrolled are yet to collect them. “Many have not come forward to take the cards. There is a general disinterest as it is not mandatory,” said Mr. Kumar.

Long queues

Blaming the sluggish implementation on the apathy of the Department, Vasudev Boloor, general secretary of the Coastal Karnataka Fishermen Action Committee, said: “There is awareness among boat owners that they should colour-code. But, there are other issues – from subsidy to encroachment of fishing territory to tensions between mechanised and traditional fishermen – and the painting of the boat is not a priority. It is up to the Department to take action and make it happen.”