Ban by coastal States on purse seine fishing not justified, Centre tells SC

The fishing may be allowed subject to certain stipulations, says Fisheries Department

Published - December 19, 2022 09:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Photo used for representation purpose only.

Photo used for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that a ban imposed by certain coastal States on purse seine fishing, which is known to disadvantage endangered species, is not justified.

The mode of fishing which uses a wide net to draw in not only the targeted fish but also at-risk varieties, including turtles, is prohibited by several States and Union Territories, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu Andaman and Nicobar Islands in their respective territorial waters of up to 12 nautical miles.

States like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, West Bengal have not imposed any such ban on purse seine fishing. Maharashtra has issued certain orders for regulation of purse seine fishing in its territorial waters.

The Fisheries Department of the Union government has recommended the lifting of the ban on purse seine fishing on a report submitted by an expert committee on November 15. The expert panel has said that this mode of fishing has “per se has not resulted in any serious resource depletion so far, given the available evidence”. It recommended purse seiners to fish in territorial waters and the Indian Exclusive Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) subject to certain conditions.

The committee has also suggested the framing of a “national management plan on purse seine fisheries”.

“This department agrees to the recommendation of the expert committee that a ban on purse seine fishing is not justified, and that the fishing may be allowed subject to certain stipulations,” the Fisheries Department informed the Supreme Court.

A Supreme Court Bench led by Justice A.S. Bopanna has asked the Centre’s lawyer to “secure instructions with regard to the stipulations that are referred to in the affidavit so that the same could be finalised by them, if they have not yet been finalised, before the fishing season comes to an end”. The court has listed the case for January 3.

Note of urgency

The court’s note of urgency has come even as the government, in its affidavit, has said it would take six months to work out a “national management plan” on purse seine fishing.

The Centre has also said that it would similarly take six months for coastal States, as suggested by the expert panel, to devise an access plan (spatial as well as temporal) restricting purse seine fishing to a specified window every year.

Noting that the ban was imposed by States on the premises that the purse seiners undertake unsustainable fishing and garner a disproportionate share of the fish in the seas as compared to other classes of fishing vessels, the Centre said this could be resolved by making it compulsory for them to submit a “species-wise and fish-size data of their catch for each voyage undertaken… and to voluntarily reduce their fishing efforts to reduce conflicts”. This could be rolled out as an interim measure till the national management plan was finalised.

The court is hearing a petition filed by Fishermen Care to stay a Tamil Nadu government order of February 17, 2020 which had banned the large nets used to catch schools of fish in the deep waters of the sea.

The Madras High Court had earlier dismissed petitions by fishermen groups challenging Rule 17(7) of the amended Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Rules, 1983 which banned purse seine nets or pair trawling.

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