Greenpeace India accuses loot of India's fisheries wealth

A Greenpeace India report, released last week, says that the Letter of Permit (LoP) scheme for the fisheries sector, introduced by the Union Ministry of Agriculture 10 years ago, has resulted in foreign fishing vessels massively looting India's marine wealth.

The report says that India's lucrative commercial fish resources, including one of the world's last healthy tuna stocks, are being systematically exploited by fishing vessels of foreign origin because of the LoP scheme.

The scheme also has an adverse impact on the livelihood of millions of people and the business interests of the Indian fishing sector, creating huge losses to the country's exchequer and destroying its marine habitats.

The scheme was introduced on conditional grounds: boosting the country's fishing sector. One of the prime conditions of the scheme is reporting all the catch from the Indian waters. But all the conditions are being violated, says the Greenpeace report titled ‘Licence to Loot.'

Fishermen affected

Releasing the report, National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) general secretary R.K. Patil said the LoP scheme was a textbook example of where the nation had gone wrong on its fisheries management. The failure on the part of the government to curtail violations of the scheme has not only meant loss to the government but also resulted in greater impoverishment for millions of fishermen in India, the NFF leader said.

The report says that the LoP is routinely exploited through dual registration (illegal in India).

The NFF has now demanded a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe into the operation of the whole scheme. NFF leader T. Peter said that mismanagement of the country's seas had pushed our fishery resources to the brink of collapse, as most of the fishermen experienced a drastic fall in catch in spite of increased efforts.

Y.G.K. Murthy, president of the Association of Indian Fisheries Industries, said that neither the fishing sector nor the country benefited from the LoP scheme. Estimates suggest that each of the foreign vessels makes an earning of up to Rs.11 crore a season by way of catch value and in return pay India a mere one-time licensing fee of Rs.10,000, he said.