The assurance given by the union Agriculture Ministry on regulating juvenile fish catch has been welcomed by traditional fishers but experts feel that it is likely to run into stiff resistance from the Commerce Ministry and the aquaculture industry. A section of fishermen feels that the proposed nationwide regulation on the use of purse seine nets would be difficult as it could cut off the supply of raw material for fish meal plants catering to the needs of aquaculture farms exporting shrimp.
Last week, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh had assured a delegation of traditional fishers that the Centre would direct all coastal States to curb pair trawling and regulate the use of purse seine nets that scoop up large quantities of juvenile fish, resulting in rapid depletion of stocks.
Early this year, the Maharashtra government had decided not to issue fresh licence for purse seine fishing in the state as it was found to have an adverse impact on the breeding cycle of several species. It is this regulation that the Centre proposes to implement in all coastal States, says T.Peter, secretary, National Fishworkers Forum. Regulating the use of purse seine or ring seine nets is a complex issue, says Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary, All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association.
Last July, in a bid to curb the catch of juvenile fish, the Kerala government had notified the Minimum Legal Size (MLS) for eight fish, four crustacean, and two molluscan stocks. With enforcement officials launching a heavy crackdown on boats docking at harbours in Kerala, vessels operating from fish landing harbours in Kerala have relocated to Muttom in Tamil Nadu. Much of the juvenile fish catch is accidental, according to fishermen.
Scientists stress the need for comprehensive legislation and an inter state mechanism for fisheries management across the country. “A co management system with the active participation of fishers is the solution,” says a scientist involved in policy formulation.
Experts call for scientific fisheries management