Traditional and countryboat fishermen and members of Tamil Nadu Meenpidi Thozhirsanga Koottamaippu affiliated to the CITU staged a demonstration after entering into the sea in the coastal Devipattinam, near here on Friday, demanding lifting of the ban on fishing sea cucumber, an endangered species, listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.
Questioning the logic behind India imposing the ban, depriving the livelihood of the fishing community, when fishing of the species was allowed in more than 100 countries, including the neighbouring Sri Lanka, the fishermen urged the Central and State governments to lift the ban and protect the interests of scores of countryboat fishermen.
“Like the State government promulgated an ordinance to lift the ban on jallikattu, it should come out with an ordinance to lift the ban on fishing sea cucumber,” M. Karunamurthy, secretary of the koottamaippu said. The ban has been in vogue for 15 years despite the Madras high court directing the Ministry of Environment and Forest to consider lifting the ban, he said.
“What is the need for the ban and listing the species as endangered when a sea cucumber laid 10 lakh eggs twice a year,” he asked. The traditional and countryboat fishermen had been engaged in the fishing of sea cucumber for nearly a century and the ban was totally unreasonable, he said.
Thanks to the ban, the hapless fishermen were harassed and slapped with cases by agencies such as the forest department, coastal security group, Indian Coast Guard and navy, he said. They arrested the fishermen even if they caught the species inadvertently. Smugglers have also established a network to smuggle the species with the help of some greedy fishermen, he said.
The ban continued even after the Central Marine Fisheries Research Centre (CMFRI) declared that sea cucumber was not an endangered species, R. Karumalayan, CITU State deputy general secretary, who led the agitation, said. The Centre should lift the ban as the fisheries department was not opposed to it, he said.
There were more than 300 species of sea cucumber and it was totally wrong on the part of the Centre to impose a total ban when fishermen in the district collected only three species, he said.