The State Government has made it mandatory to paint registered fishing trawlers and boats black, white and blue, Assistant Director of the Fisheries Department Vijay Kumar said here on Tuesday.

Addressing fishermen at the community interaction and health camp in Ullal, Mr. Kumar said the Government notification had reached his office two days ago. The coding was part of decisions taken by the Coast Guard to assign colour for boats in each States, which would make non-State boats, which may indicate smugglers, pirates, or national security threats apparent, he said. He said distribution of biometric cards, which would add another layer of security, would start next season, he said. “For security reasons, we have made it mandatory for outsiders who work in trawlers to provide us a letter signed by the tahsildar of their taluk,” Mr. Kumar said. The discussion was organised by the Coast Guard. It intended to raise the level of cooperation between fishermen and the Coast Guard.

Calling fishermen the “best agents”, “assets” and “eyes and ears” of the Coast Guard, K L Arun, Captain of Indian Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Kasturba Gandhi, said fishermen were crucial for the security of the coast.

“Radar and other sophisticated equipment being installed at Surathkal will only cover security by 55 percent. If fishermen see a boat that is unlicensed or does not belong to the port, they can contact the Coast Guard. We have had instances where smugglers and even stray Pakistani boats were caught in Indian waters when a fisherman alerted the Coast Guard,” he said. However, fishermen complained to the officers that Coast Guard and Customs personnel harassed them. “Even when we have documents, they harass us. Some times, when their vessels approach our boats, our fishing lines get cut. We lose a lot of our catch,” said Ganapathy Kotian, a fisherman.

Responding to this, Capt. Arun asked them to note down the number of the vessel and register a complaint with the authorities concerned. Apart from using buoys and lifejackets, fishermen were shown the usage of a “distress alert transmitter” developed by ISRO. The satellite-based distress system alerts the Coast Guard control room in Chennai on four eventualities: Fire in the ship, medical emergencies, water leakage or drowning and man overboard.

“Chennai will contact us here. The GPS coordinate, boat registration is also sent, as each device sends these details. When the call is verified, the boat is rescued. The Air Force and the Navy will be informed for back-up,” Capt. Arun said. The device costs Rs. 10,000. The Coast Guard is distributing the device free of cost in Udupi and Uttar Kannada districts, and will start distribution in Dakshina Kannada soon.

Capt. Arun said the State Government had, in principle, agreed to subsidise these devices. However, Mr. Vijay Kumar said the Government had not intimated the department officials here.