Fisheries Minister S. Sarma demanded here on Thursday that the Centre should review the proposed Marine Fisheries (Regulation and Management) Bill and consult the States on its provisions.

The Minister told the media that the proposed Bill would pave the way for plundering of the territorial waters of Kerala (and other States) by foreign fishing vessels. The State government opposed the Bill strongly. It would convene a meeting of the trade unions in Thrissur on October 15 to discuss the implications of the Bill and plan concerted action.

Mr. Sarma noted that the territorial waters came within the purview of the State government and hence the Centre should have consulted the States before proposing the legislation infringing on the State’s control over the waters. The Bill sought to take away the powers of the States to regulate marine fishing by empowering the Centre to issue permits, fix specifications of fishing vessels and decide on the procedure for issue of licences.

He also noted that the entry of foreign fishing vessels into the territorial waters would lead to conflict with the traditional fishermen and consequent law and order problems. The Bill had no provision to involve traditional fishermen or their cooperatives in the deep fishing activities. It should have provisions to give them priority in issue of permits for deep sea fishing. Provision should also be made for checking the incursion of large corporate interests into the sector.

He added that the provision in the Bill for permitting foreign fishing vessels to conduct research or experimental fishing in Indian waters including territorial waters of Kerala was against national interests and security. This provision should be changed and stringent punishment specified for foreign vessels entering Indian waters for fishing.

He also suggested that fishing vessels should be classified according to their size and licences issued for their operation in Indian waters outside the territorial waters. Boats not exceeding 20 metres in length should also be allowed to fish beyond the territorial waters up to a depth of 150 metres. Indian Coast Guard and an agency over which the State had control should be deputed to prevent incursion of large vessels into territorial waters.

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