The marine enforcement squad under the Fisheries department, which is expected to enforce the Kerala Marine Fishing Regulation Act and carry out checks against the misuse of fishing boats for illegal purposes in the sea, is functioning with the support of a skeletal strength of two police officers in Kozhikode district for several months.
The district is yet to have the sanctioned strength of 11 officers, including a circle inspector, a sub inspector, civil police officers and rescue guards.
Fisheries department sources said coastal patrol against illegal fishing activities, use of unlicensed boats, and violation of minimum legal size of catch would be affected because of this. Since there are around 5,000 fishing boats actively engaged in fishing off the Kozhikode coast, the operation of the squad 24x7 was a necessity, they said.
While the Kerala Maritime Board and the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation monitor the operation of licensed boat operators in the tourism sector, misuse of fishing boats for tourism purposes is usually tracked by marine enforcement squads. There have been several incidents where squads tracked such illegal operators and impounded their boats, apart from slapping hefty fines.
“There was a huge fall in the number of violations when the enforcement squad was strong. As it also has legal powers to sue violators, many habitual offenders have been found leaving the field or complying with regulations,” said a former Fisheries department official. She pointed out that action used to be taken without succumbing to pressure tactics from a section of the powerful coastal unions and communities.
Since the squad witnessed a drop in the number of actual strength, coastal police stations in the district were temporarily managing the situation, apart from their main duty to ensure coastal security and give intelligence inputs with the support of local fishermen. However, the shortage of fuel had crippled their operations as well on many occasions. It was only on Monday that the shortage of fuel at various coastal police stations was addressed following media reports.
On the shortage of staff, a senior Fisheries department official said the issue could be addressed within a couple of weeks by appointing five more police officers in the squad. He added that the total strength would then become seven which would be sufficient to meet the patrol requirement till the end of summer. It could be increased again with the advent of the monsoon when more safety guards are considered for duty in vulnerable coastal areas, he added.