The first draft of the National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2016, made available here on Thursday, says that the Letter of Permit (LoP) regime, which allows foreign trawlers to operate in deep sea off the coast of India, had not had the desired impact on inclusive development.
“An alternative mechanism may be looked at for development of the deep-sea fishing sector,” said the draft circulated during a consultative meeting on the fisheries policy. The government has constituted a seven-member committee headed by the Director General of Indian Council for Agricultural Research S. Ayappan to draw up the new policy after the Union government withdrew a previous policy framework submitted by the B. Meenkumari committee. One of the key issues that came up and triggered anger among fisherfolk was the recommendation by the Meenakumari committee that Indian fishermen and fishing fleet were not equipped to optimally exploit India’s deep-sea resources.
The draft of the new policy, however, has made a major departure from the past two policy statements by recommending that there was scope to harvest fisheries resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction. “The government will promote the utilisation of fishery resources” in these areas by Indian fishing vessels subject to compliance with the requirements of international agreements/conventions,” the draft said.
Fishermen welcomed the hint in the draft to dump the LoP regime. But they were guarded. “Why has not the government made the statement categorically,” asked Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators’ Association.
V. Dinakaran, chief executive of Kerala’s apex fisheries cooperative Matsyafed, said at the consultative meeting that the proposed new policy should not meet the fate of the earlier one and that fishermen should be taken into confidence while the policy was framed.
Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi’s Charles George expressed apprehensions that the new committee was made up mostly of those favouring the LOP regime.