Bill introduced for inland fisheries development

Special Correspondent

Bill seeks to implement

unified law

Bill referred to subject committee

Thiruvananthapuram: Fisheries Minister S. Sarma introduced a landmark Bill in the Assembly on Monday seeking to implement a unified law for inland fisheries in the State, besides regulating the development, management, conservation, propagation, protection, and exploitation of inland fisheries.

Piloting the Bill, Mr. Sarma highlighted the various constraints faced by the inland fisheries sector because of the existence of two separate laws for the Malabar and the Travancore regions. The Indian Fisheries Act, 1897 and the Indian Fisheries (Madras Amendment) Act, 1827 were applicable to the Malabar region and the Travancore-Cochin Fisheries Act, 1950 was applicable for the southern region.

The laws had come into being owing to a peculiar situation that prevailed in the areas.

In Travancore-Cochin, it was related to voting rights and those who possessed the requisite registrations were qualified to vote.

The Bill is on the basis of a Law Reforms Commission report and once it comes into force, it will ensure the comprehensive development of the inland fisheries sector. Kerala's forte is its fish processing sector, but it is weak in the inland fisheries sector.

Fish wealth

He said the Bill sought to conserve the fish wealth of inland water bodies, control over-exploitation that led to depletion of fish wealth, improve the standard of the quality of fish seed and enhance fish production of the State by preventing fish diseases. Replying to the objections raised by Kerala Congress (M) leader K.M. Mani, Mr. Sarma maintained that the Bill would provide teeth to local bodies in regulating the inland fisheries sector.

He said the government had an open mind on the various provisions of the Bill and was willing to accommodate the suggestions of members.

The government will have the powers to declare any area to be a fish sanctuary if it considers such area as important zoologically, naturally or ecologically in protecting and propagating fish or its environment. The 28-page Bill has as many as 44 clauses, covering various aspects of conservation, preservation, regulation and development of the inland fisheries sector.

After a brief discussion, the Assembly unanimously referred the Bill to the Subject Committee.