The Assembly on Wednesday deemed the Centre government’s recently notified national policy on marine fisheries as an impediment to the interests of the traditional fishing sector.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala flagged the issue during the debate on the demands for grants for fisheries. He said the policy appeared to have imperilled the livelihood of common fisherfolk by giving deep sea trawlers from other regions freedom to operate in Kerala’s traditional fishing grounds. The ailing sector, which provides livelihood to lakhs of coast dwellers, would be hit hard.
Fisheries Minister Mercykutty told the Assembly that the Centre’s policy was an extension of the much-touted “blue revolution” in BJP-ruled Gujarat. By reducing the State’s exclusive fishing ground from the proposed 36 to 20 nautical miles, the Centre had apportioned off much of the sea to rich businessmen who owned and operated deep sea trawler fleets.
The Centre’s policy gave no thought to the welfare of traditional fisherfolk who braved the seas for subsistence. Instead, it sanctioned the use of indiscriminate fishing methods indulged in by trawler fleets. It was a push for private investments in the deep-sea fishing sector and opened the door for entry of foreign players.
The Centre had added to the woes of fishing families by halving the subsidised kerosene quota for powered small-sized fishing boats. The State was preparing a coastal management plan to alter the Coastal Regulation Zone norms to suit Kerala’s peculiar conditions.
The government had given inland acqua culture a huge push. It hoped to use paddy fields, inland water bodies, rivers and ponds to raise local fish varieties. Artificial reef to provide natural hatcheries for marine fish was in the offing. Ongoing breeding programmes would help replenish marine fish stocks in littoral waters.