All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association has written a letter to the Prime Minister, stating that foreign vessels are fishing in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Kerala fishing boat operators to protest foreign vessels trawling in Indian seas
news Protest Thursday, July 04, 2019 - 19:42

About three weeks after 10 Chinese fishing vessels were given shelter by India at the Ratnagiri port in Mumbai following cyclone Vayu warning, the fishing boat operators in Kerala have decided to hold a protest against foreign vessels trawling in the country’s fishing grounds.

The boat operators have alleged that foreign vessels are taking the fisheries resources of the country and that authorities are taking no action against it. Protesting against this, All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association has decided to go on strike from the end of July after the trawl ban period (due to monsoon) is over.

The boat operators are alleging that while stringent actions were being taken against the local boats, such foreign trawlers are left free despite violating policies. According to boat operators, though this issue was raised earlier, officials have not taken any action.

“Don’t think that we are raising this issue for the first time. For the last many months we have been notifying various departments concerned and scientists about the presence of foreign fishing vessels in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The recent incident of Chinese fishing vessels seeking shelter in India shows clearly that they were present inside the limits of EEZ,” says Joseph Xavier, general secretary of All Kerala Fishing Boat Operator’s Association.

Exclusive Economic Zone is the territorial sea that extends up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline of the coast. According to the United Nations guidelines, the coastal state has the ‘sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources’ in EEZ.

Fishing Boat operators allege that if the Chinese fishing vessel’s activity was in the deep sea, outside the EEZ, as the authorities claim, they would have been going to Iran coast since it is easily accessible. “But on getting a warning about Vayu cyclone, they chose to come to Indian shore. This clearly shows they were near India and was present in our Exclusive Economic Zone,” says Xavier.

Taking into consideration the threat to the indigenous fishing boat operators in the country, the association has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi explaining the situation.

“If we engage in fishing during monsoon season (which is trawl ban period for Kerala), the penalty is Rs 2 lakhs and the presence of juvenile fish in the catch will increase the fine further. But these foreign vessels would be left without any penalty in the guise of international peace,” states the boat owners, in the letter, dated July 1, to the Prime Minister.

Need for uniform fishing law 

The boat operators from Kerala have also raised the issue of the need for a uniform fishing law in the country.  

“Kerala government grants registration to boats to fish within 12 nautical miles distance. But fishing beyond that in the Exclusive Economic Zone requires a licence fee of Rs 50,000 per year. While other states have relaxed these rules, only Kerala is stringent in its policies. It is high time the Centre formulate rules and regulations uniformly in the country,” says Joseph.

The association has also planned to convene a meeting of boat operators across the country to take this issue nationally.

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