As the Statewide indefinite strike by fishing boat owners completed five days, Fisheries Director S. Venkatesapathy has ruled out any compromise on the part of the department on catching juvenile fish.
He said such a decision would result in a conflict with the already set rules under the Kerala Marine Fishing Regulation Act and the recommendations made by the Central Marine Fisheries Institute.
“These are standard rules, including the Minimum Legal Size (MLS) restrictions, set for the conservation of our fisheries resources and any change in it cannot be considered,” he told The Hindu on Monday. “We have already discussed their concerns in the first-round meeting and the stance of the department on the demands, and there is still chance for a second round talk,” he said.
Mr. Venkatesapathy also maintained that the meeting could be convened only in consultation with Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty Amma, who is now undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College Hospital, Thiruvanathapuram.
T.M. Mariam Hazeena, Deputy Director of Fisheries Department, who had already initiated legal action against several fishing boat owners from Kozhikode who violated the MLS rules, said the ongoing strike was only to put more pressure on the fisheries enforcement squads, without any legitimate reason, and stop them from acting tough.
“Under section four of the amended Marine Fishing Regulation Act, there is clear reference on the restrictions imposed on catching 58 varieties of juvenile fishes and there is no re-thinking about our stern action against the violators,” she told The Hindu . Ms. Hazeena also pointed out that the boat owners who were caught for trash fish hunt were found to have been maintaining close ties with the fertiliser companies in Mangaluru.
Meanwhile, a section of boat owners owing allegiance to the Kerala Fishing Boat Operators’ Association launched an indefinite relay hunger strike at Beypore on Monday alleging that the Fisheries Department was adopting a hostile attitude towards their genuine demands. Association leaders said they would organise similar protests across the State to expose the “apathy”.
On the other hand, the Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi, a State-level forum of various fishermen’s unions, flayed the decision of boat owners. Vedi president Charles George said the demand was totally illogical and was not supporting the concept of sustainable livelihood or ecological fishing. “The mechanised boat owners’ claim that there is no mechanism in place to avoid the catch of juvenile fishing is baseless as the government has already come up with specific guidelines on the mesh size to be used in trawl boats. They are misleading people with fake claims and plundering the resources for personal gains,” he told The Hindu . Mr. George also alleged that the boat owners, who had earlier agreed to cooperate with the new code of conduct in saving juvenile fishes, were flouting it for illegal gains.