Fisheries Department says it can fine them only if the order is notified

Among the hundreds of colourful fishing boats jostling for space at the Old Port, Bunder, only a handful have the sober colours of blue and white. Oddly sticking out from the rest of the boats, most decked in gaudy colours, these boats represent only around 10 per cent of more than 1,500 trawlers that ply from the district to have implemented the colour-code order as dictated by the Centre and the State government.

The order, received by the Fisheries Department in June this 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.

“This is a slow process. Since it is not statutory yet, very few fishermen are taking initiative to do it. Only around 200 boats may have been colour-coded till now,” said Suresh Kumar Ullal, Deputy Director of Fisheries Department.

With no subsidies or penalties for implementing the order, the department had resorted to sending notices to diesel depots and the fishermen’s unions giving a duplicitous deadline of August, even threatening them of penalties — including diesel subsidy cuts — if the boats were not painted by then.

Conceding that even this “pressure tactic” did not work, Mr. Ullal said the department hoped to fully implement it before the next rainy season.

“The fishermen will only wake up when the order is notified, and the Coast Guard starts catching them for not colour-coding. After notification, perhaps, we can impose penalties and this will speed up the process,” he said.

Long queues

Blaming the slow implementation on the apathy of the department, Loknath Boloor, president of the Yanthrika Meenugarar Prathamika Sahakari Sangha, said that if fishermen violate the rules, it was up to the department to take action. “If the fishermen are reluctant to paint the new colours, then should not the department apply pressure on them by taking action,” he asked.

However, Chandra Suvarna of the Mangalore Trawl Boat Meenugarara Sangha, expressed confidence in the boats colour-coding by May, saying that many boats were waiting for “long queues” to reduce.

“There are not enough places to get the boats painted now and the existing places have long queues. I am sure that when the queues reduce, and when all boats come for their repairs and overhauls, the implementation of the order will be complete.”

Meanwhile, the Fisheries Department has said security would be bolstered after the distribution of 19,000 smart cards for fishermen in the district in the coming month. “Even in this, there was reluctance from the fishermen. But when it became clear that the Coast Guard would penalise them, they agreed to the Smart Cards. With the full implementation of the colour-coding and smart card, it would be difficult for unregistered boats to operate,” said Mr. Ullal.