Amid reports of a raging face-off between traditional fishermen and vessel operators, the marine fishing sector in Kochi is witnessing a gradual return of pelagic trawling.
According to Marine Enforcement officials, as many as 10 fishing vessels have been seized from the Munambam region alone over the last two weeks for engaging in the unlawful practice. Of these, five were seized during off-shore inspections while the remaining vessels were caught from the harbour.
Based on the seizure, the boat operators have been booked under section 5 of the Kerala Marine fishing regulation Act, 1980 and after impounding the fish stock, the vessels have been handed over to the Fisheries Directorate in Kochi for due adjudication.
Investigations have revealed the operation of a huge racket in Kochi, purchasing juvenile fish for manufacturing fertilisers and livestock feeds, among others. “Most of these trawlers have no valid registration or licence for fishing and were found carrying a juvenile fish stock of around 1,500 kilograms. They have been imposed a fine ranging between Rs.25,000 to 50,000,” said K.M. Sajeev, Circle Inspector, Marine Enforcement wing.
The practice has been more rampant among vessels operating from the Munambam harbour where the presence of police is relatively less.
The drive against vessels, meanwhile, has evoked a sharp reaction from the vessel operators, who have accused the Marine Enforcement of attempting to drive the fishing boats off Kochi to another fishing harbour in Tamil Nadu. The Marine Enforcement, however, have been unmindful of this controversy and decided to continue with the checks in the coming days as well.
“The absence of adequate staff notwithstanding, we have decided to intensify patrolling of vessels from the harbours of Thoppumpady, Murukkumpadam and Munambam in the coming days as well,” the official added.
Meanwhile, the traditional fishermen have come out in the open against the vessels engaged in pelagic trawling and threatened to stop such vessels from operating. While the State government had prescribed minimum legal size for fish to be caught on a commercial scale, a section of trawler operators with vested interests was trying to sidestep the regulation, they pointed out, in a statement here.