Despite surveillance by the Marine Enforcement Squad attached to the Fisheries department, illegal deep-sea pleasure trips in fishing boats continue on the north Kerala’s shoreline.
The authorities had exposed five such cases off the Kozhikode coast during special operations recently.
“Usually, we seize these boats in collaboration with the Marine Enforcement Squad under our supervision and prosecute the owners under various provisions of the Kerala Marine Fishing Regulation Act. In Kozhikode district alone, violators have paid a total of ₹1.5 lakh for the offence,” Fisheries Assistant Director K.A. Labeeb told The Hindu on Monday.
Mr. Labeeb added that the fines imposed on violators ranged from ₹5,000 to a whopping ₹2.5 lakh, the amount determined by the engine capacity of their vessels, categorised into nine distinct groups.
Fisheries department officials who worked in Kannur and Malappuram districts also revealed that they had come across several instances where fishing boat owners operated illegal pleasure trips for additional income, violating inland navigation rules and the Kerala Marine Fishing Regulation Act. They pointed out that the use of fishing boats for pleasure trips was never encouraged or endorsed by any department as the structure of such boats itself was not fit for pleasure rides in the sea.
Police officers who earlier worked with the Marine Enforcement Squad of the Fisheries department said it was quite tough to track such boats as trips were operated secretly and in areas where 24x7 surveillance was practically impossible for patrol squads of the coastal police and the squad. Besides, restrictions on patrol squads on travelling beyond the permitted region also helped violators, they said.
“In the wake of the Malappuram incident, we have been asked to check the fitness condition of all boats now being used for pleasure rides off the Kozhikode coast. Also, the fitness of the jankar currently being used for ferrying between Beypore and Chaliyam will be examined,” said P. Hareesh, Station House officer, Beypore coastal police station. He added that efforts were under way using social media to make the coastal community aware of the safety risks and the legal consequences of such violations.
The officer said that diesel shortage that reportedly hit the functioning of their rescue boat at the coastal station was addressed on Monday following the intervention of the higher authorities. “A trained rescue team from our station was also sent to Tanur in time for assistance where the boat tragedy claimed the lives of 22 persons,” he said.