Representatives from the fishing industry have faulted the way the National Policy on Marine Fisheries is being formulated by not including stakeholders in the eight-member committee set up to finalise the draft and not holding meetings by giving adequate publicity to enable more to give their feedback on the exercise.
At a regional meet organised at Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) here on Thursday for representatives from Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal, the representatives termed the entire exercise as eyewash.
They said vital issues like granting ST status to fishermen, industrial pollution and displacement, formation of separate ministry for fisheries and providing comprehensive social security like pension for those aged above 60 and protecting small fishermen have not been addressed.
CMFRI, which has been designated as the agency to prepare the policy document, sent a questionnaire comprising 85 points. “None responded from AP, Odisha and West Bengal because we did not find the pattern convenient to us. Many are not aware of what is happening,” Y.G.K. Murti, president of Federation of Indian Fishery Industries, said.
He said instead of stakeholders meets at Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Mumbai, and Chennai, at least two consultation sessions should have been held in each maritime State and Union Territory.
Dr. Murti said their demand for granting agriculture status to fisheries was long due. He said coastal pollution and displacement were issues of serious concern and described how by 2050 plastic dumped in ocean would overtake the quantity of fish wealth as per studies conducted by an expert group.
He also opposed move to allow foreign trawlers. AP Mechanised Boat Operators’ Welfare Association president P.C. Appa Rao and Dolphin Boat Operators’ Welfare Association president Ch. Satyanarayana Murthy said the exercise would be meaningless if issues like protecting mangroves, banning bottom trawling and juvenile fishing and initiating stringent action against industries releasing untreated effluents into the sea were not considered. Dakshina Bengal Matsajibi Sangha president Pradip Chatterjee, while terming the exercise to form new policy as a flawed one, said there should be a ban on acquisition of new mechanised boats to protect the interest of traditional fishermen.
Fisherfolk Foundation executive director Arjili Dasu also called for greater role for stakeholders in policy formulation and sought ban on allowing foreign trawlers under Letter of Permit scheme. Bimal Kumar Jena of West Bengal and Dilip Kumar Sahu of Odisha expressed concern over livelihood threat faced by small fishermen due to displacement caused by industries and tourism projects.