New high seas guidelines against our interests, say fishermen 

Fishermen’s unions and other stakeholders held a meeting with senior officials of the Union Fisheries department on Saturday on the guideline finalisation

June 18, 2023 07:42 pm | Updated 07:42 pm IST - KOCHI

The Kerala State Fisheries Coordination Committee is getting ready to launch a protest against what it called “anti-fisherman” guidelines for regulating fishing by Indian-flagged vessels on the high seas. If the government goes ahead with its policy to permit monopolies to capture fishing rights in the high seas, there would be  strong protest, said Coordination Committee sources.

The Union government had issued draft guidelines on high-seas fishing (fishing in international waters off India coast, beyond the 200 nautical mile jurisdiction) in 2022. Fishermen’s unions and other stakeholders held a meeting with senior officials of the Union Fisheries department on Saturday on the guideline finalisation, said persons close to the development.

Charles George of independent fishermen’s union, representing traditional fishermen and member of the coordination committee, alleged that the Union government was going ahead with the Blue Economy policies with high-seas fishing as part of the programme. Handing over the rights of hig seas to monopolies would jeopardise the livelihoods of lakhs of traditional and small fishermen and work against the principles of sustainability, he said.

The government argument is that high seas resources are now being exploited by large vessels from countries like Japan, Korea, China, and the European Union. These resources can be tapped effectively by Indian vessels with permits. In turn, it implied that monopolies would be issued permits for these high-seas activities, alleged Mr. George.

He said the suggestions that came up from the side of the traditional fishermen included taking the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission into confidence, formation of Regional Fisheries Management Organisation with neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Oman, Sri Lanka, Myanmar etc., and co-operatisation of the high seas fishing instead of corporatising the activities.

The traditional fishermen also want the government to support modernisation of the fishing fleet in existence and to bring them under a vessel monitoring system. Mr. George said Indian vessels had been operating in international waters and engaged in sustainable fishing activities. Their hands have to be strengthened instead of bringing in large monopolies, which will cut off the livelihoods of traditional fishermen in the country.

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