HC moved against illegal transhipment of fish catch

Petitioner alleges foul play between foreign trawler owners and Indian companies operating in EEZ

August 30, 2016 03:05 am | Updated October 17, 2016 06:50 pm IST - KOCHI:

A public interest writ petition was filed on Monday in the High Court seeking a directive to the Union government to ban unauthorised transhipment of catch by licensed Indian trawlers operating in high sea to US trawler ships or bunkers in the nearby ports of Maldives, Sri Lanka, and other southeast Asian ports.

The petition was filed by M.K. Salim of Kollam. According to the petitioner, Indian fishing vessels could operate in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in accordance with a scheme of the Department of Fisheries. As per the Letter of Permit (LoP) scheme, Indian fishing firms could buy technologically advanced foreign vessels and operate in the Indian EEZ.

The scheme gave permission to such foreign vessels to operate in the Indian EEZ once it surrendered its registration in the country of origin. The vessel was supposed to employ 25 per cent Indian crew and within three years, the Indian firm should completely own the vessel and the majority of the crew has to be Indian. The petitioner said that many of these vessels were controlled by the foreign firms by default.

The Indian firms just remained as proxy owners and they were paid commission from the huge profit made by the original firms that sell Indian fish in the international market. These vessels often made a catch of 11 crore per season. The petitioner suspected some foul play between these foreign trawler owners and the Indian companies on which licence was given.

The petitioner alleged that as a result, many of the LoP licence holding Indian companies transhipped their catch in the midsea to either to US trawlers ships which had the capacity to process the catch in the ship itself or to bunkers in the nearby ports. These foreign trawlers were using the LoP as a shield to market fish product in the high seas against the interest of domestic fishing and marketing of fish products.

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