Deep sea fishing scheme makes slow progress

‘Delay is due to time taken to design prototype of vessel’

Updated - December 19, 2020 03:04 am IST

Published - December 19, 2020 01:36 am IST - CHENNAI

Representational image.

Representational image.

With the Sri Lankan authorities resuming the arrest of Tamil Nadu fishermen for having crossed over the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), the focus turns to the pace of implementation of a ₹1,600-crore scheme, billed a few years ago as the remedy to the Palk Bay fishing conflict.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the scheme in July 2017 in Rameswaram, whose fishermen have been at the centre of the conflict, the Central and State governments expected that in three years, 2,000 trawlers would be replaced with deep-sea fishing boats having long lines and gill nets.


It was planned to have 500 boats built in the first year (2017-18). Of the unit cost of each vessel (₹80 lakh), 50% would be borne by the Centre, 20% by the State government and 10% by the beneficiary, and the remaining 20% would be met through institutional financing. More importantly, the Centre feels that deep sea fishing is the “only solution” to promote ecologically sustainable fishing and reduce “fishing pressure” around the close proximity of the IMBL and the incidents of cross-border fishing.

Vessels handed over

But when Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, through video-conference, handed over eight vessels to beneficiaries on December 11, the State government’s release stated that 24 boats had so far been given away. On Friday, K. Gopal, Principal Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, said the figure now stood at 39. A total of 689 applications had been received, of which agreements were signed for 100 beneficiaries. Work orders had been issued in respect of 96.

Notwithstanding the gap between the progress and the target, the Central and State governments are happy with what has been achieved.

In a written response to The Hindu , the Central government’s Department of Fisheries said the scheme, launched under the Blue Revolution programme, had given “very positive and encouraging results” as “it is providing economically higher returns” to the fishermen concerned. Dr. Gopal said the development of trawling boats, introduced under the Indo-Norwegian collaboration in the 1960s, peaked only in the 1990s, whereas “this scheme is playing out faster”.

As for the delay, the Central government’s Department of Fisheries acknowledged that it took “considerable time” to design the prototype of a deep-sea fishing vessel — which was decided by the State government in consultation with the fishermen — incorporating technical inputs from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) and Cochin Shipyard Limited. The applications were obtained from the beneficiaries only on finalisation of the prototype in early 2018.

Shift to new venture

Also, “it takes some time to shift the fishermen from their traditional methods to a new venture, as it involves behavioural changes and requires constant motivation, which the State government has taken up very seriously,” the Central department said. It added that the State government had empanelled 20 shipyards, besides Cochin Shipyard, to “expedite the manufacturing of deep-sea fishing vessels”.

On the reports of the financial institutions’ reluctance to lend to the fishermen, Dr. Gopal said his department was pursuing the matter with the lenders and was also taking steps “to create fish farmer producer organisations or companies which can increase the coverage”. The Central government’s Department of Fisheries, while stating that it had “not received any such report regarding constraint in institutional financing”, suggested that the financial arrangements be made through the National Cooperative Development Corporation, for which discussions had already begun. The Centre also assured the State of its support “as and when required, in any such matters”.

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