A recent order by the Indian government to mark a shipping corridor along the Quilon Bank in Keralaâ€™s Kollam has drawn flak from fishermen associations, who say that indigenous fishing communities would lose their livelihood as a result of the proposal. The Kerala government has also decided to express its dissent to the union government.
Organisations like the National Fishermen Forum point out that they are in support of shipping corridors, as it would help avoid the collision of fishing boats and ships. However, they say that the new corridor proposed by the Ministry of Shipping is a favoured fishing ground, and would badly hit the livelihood of fishermen in the region.
The corridor that passes through the 200 to 500-meter depth zone off the Kollam coast will become a banned area for fishermen and those who trespass it could be punished, once it comes up. The associations estimate that around 25,000 fishermen will be affected due to the move.
"We welcome a corridor route as far as it is beyond 500 meters in depth on the edge of continental shelf. It shouldnâ€™t intrude into shallow areas beyond the shelf, which are favourable fishing grounds," T Peter from the National Fishermen Forum (NFF) said.
"This is an important fishing area on the South West coast with all motorised, mechanised and deep-sea boats fishing here. The number of fishermen using this area is large and not less than 25,000. This is an unacceptable route for ships," he added.
Discussions over this corridor were taking place for the last two years in order to reduce collisions. Even fishermen organisations were consulted during the discussions. But NFF alleges that earlier proposals of the corridor were very different.
"In the earlier discussions, the ambition was to cover the entire west coast of India. But as per the current notification, the corridor has been reduced to just a small stretch, off the Kerala coast and it passes through a unique fishing ground off the Quilon Bank. This may be the only location in Kerala where significant offshore fishing takes place, including the catching of deep sea prawns," Peter said.
Meanwhile, Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma has informed the associations that the government will convey its disagreement over the corridor in writing to the union ministry after holding discussions with them.
She said that the state government had suggested a corridor beyond 50 nautical miles and now the Shipping Ministry decided on a corridor that was just beyond 12 nautical miles.
Keralaâ€™s Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala had also criticised the corridor and said that it would badly affect the fisheries sector in the state.