Major stakeholders in the fisheries sector have opposed the recommendations for modifying the annual monsoon trawl ban.

The ban had been in force for the past 25 years in the State. An expert committee appointed by the State government had suggested extending the trawl ban from 47 to 75 days for the mechanised sector besides introducing a 60-day ban for traditional fishermen. Representatives of major trade unions and fishing boat operators have vowed to oppose the recommendations of the committee led by K. Sunil Muhammed. The State government has convened a meeting of the stakeholders on May 18 to discuss the report.

The All Kerala Fishing Boar Operators Association urged the State government to reject the report as it lacked scientific backing. The committee held only three sittings with various stakeholders before preparing the report. The panel relied on unscientific data and even refused to take note of the data generated by agencies such as the Fisheries Survey of India regarding fish wealth, said Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal, general secretary of the association.

The panel suggested extension of the ban on the presumption that catch brought to Kerala was fished from Kerala waters.

However, fish caught from Kanyakumari to Gujarat is brought to landing centres in Kerala. Hence the ban enforced in Kerala would have little impact. Even when the fishing vessels from the State keep off the sea during the ban period, foreign vessels exploit the fish wealth without any hindrance, Mr. Kalappurakkal said.

Charles George, State president of the Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi, suspected that the report was a ploy to torpedo the monsoon trawl ban. The suggestion for trawl ban for the traditional sector during April and May was unscientific as it did not coincide with the spawning season of major pelagic species. The panel has got the fish productivity data wrong. The findings of the panel were against the report of the institutions like Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute. The figures available with the government indicated that the fish production as increased in the State over the years, Mr. George said.

V.V. Saseendran, State president of the Kerala Matsya Thozhilai Federation (CITU), feared that any attempt to destabilise the annual trawl ban would cause serious unrest in the sector. Any such attempt would end up in clashes in the fisheries sector between various stakeholders where a general consensus on monsoon trawl ban has evolved.

The ban for the traditional sector would go against the State legislation permitting the traditional fishermen to venture into the sea during the monsoon trawl ban period. The Federation will strongly oppose such suggestions, he said.

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