The national policy on marine fisheries notified by the Central government on April 28 has recommended a major push for private investments in deep-sea fishing, eliciting serious concerns among fishermen communities who see it as a backdoor entry for foreign players.
The policy declares the government’s intention to rescind the Letter of Permit (LoP) scheme allowing foreign vessels to operate in Indian waters. Considering that the LoP scheme has not had the expected impact on inclusive development of the deep-sea fishing sector, the government will rescind the existing scheme and consider an alternate mechanism for development of the sector, says the notification.
However, it seeks to encourage entrepreneurship development, private investment and public private partnership in the marine fisheries sector. It also calls for harnessing overseas technology to develop an optimum fleet size of modern fishing vessels capable of undertaking extended voyages.
“By opening up the sector to private investors, the government is providing an alternative to the LoP scheme for foreign players to come in.
It is like closing the main entry and keeping the backdoor open,” says T. Peter, secretary, National Fishworkers Forum.
“What is to prevent the same players from making an entry through a tie-up with Indian entrepreneurs?” asks Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal, general secretary, All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators’ Association.
The policy moots the modernisation of the existing indigenous deep-sea fishing fleet and linkages to markets and export. It also seeks to promote krill fishing and harvesting of other fisheries resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).
A strong monitoring, control and surveillance regime for fishing vessels and safety measures to prevent accidents at sea are other recommendations.
Meanwhile, the State government is piqued over the Centre’s refusal to address the demands and concerns raised by the State at various stakeholder consultations during the policy formulation.
Key government sources said most of the issues highlighted by the State had been ignored by the Centre.
The government had made a pitch for decentralised management of fisheries, a nation-wide ban on juvenile fishing and extension of the State’s territorial jurisdiction from 12 to 36 nautical miles.
It also wanted the Centre to create a separate ministry for fisheries, include fisheries in the concurrent list, and prescribe minimum standards for fishing vessels.
“Most of the suggestions submitted by the State government have not been considered in the policy,” says an official.
“We will now have to think of some other means to address the issues in the fisheries sector.” The government is learnt to be convening a meeting soon to discuss other options.