New draft bill will only help the foreign vessels owned by ‘dummy’ Indian entrepreneurs’

The Centre’s decision to repeal Maritime Zones of India Act, 1981 and replace it with Maritime Fisheries (Regulation and Management) Act has put the representatives of the fishing industry on a warpath.

The industry representatives in Visakhapatnam which is considered as a Mecca for seafood exports, feel that the draft bill prepared by the Centre would only help the foreign vessels owned by ‘dummy’ Indian entrepreneurs to do fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone indiscriminately.

Angered by the announcement of the bill, a team of representatives from the industry will proceed to Hyderabad and submit memoranda to the Minister for Fisheries and the Commissioner of Fisheries in a day or two to oppose it on behalf of the State Government.

“While giving a free hand to Indian-owned foreign vessels – 57 Taiwanese tuna long-liners and 28 mid-water Thai pelagic trawlers, who have obtained licence of permit (LoP) – the proposed bill will impose curbs on Indian trawlers as well as mechanised and traditional vessels to indulge in mid-sea fishing,” Association of Indian Fishing Industry president Y.G.K. Murty told The Hindu on Sunday.

Under the new bill, it is proposed to issue licences, specify an area for fishing and explore particular type of fishes and period for doing so for the Indian vessels to restrict ‘poaching.’

Arrest warrant

The bill also envisages issuance of arrest warrant, confiscation of the vessel and imposing heavy penalty if any vessel goes into EEZ without obtaining a valid licence.

“This is nothing but an attempt to discourage fishing by us and encourage LoP vessels,” alleged Ch. Satyanarayana Murthy, general secretary, Visakha Dolphin Boat Owners’ Welfare Association.

There are about 3.5 lakh small, medium and large vessels in the country. As per the bill, the Ministry of Agriculture is the regulating authority for enforcing the new legislation. “If the ministry is not able to regulate the activity of less than 100 Indian-owned LoP foreign vessels, who recruit foreign crew without having visa for employment in India, how can it impose tabs on the movement of 3.5 lakh fishing boats and trawlers,” asked a seafood exporter.

The government contention is that the new bill is necessitated to heighten surveillance in the EEZ following 26/11 terror attacks.

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