The state department of fisheries has directed fishermen who own mechanised boats to install CCTV cameras at their own expense. The order, however, has been criticised by fishermen bodies, who claim that a fisherman will be unable to bear the added costs of installing and maintaining security cameras.
The move was among a host of measures first discussed between members of Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti and Fisheries, Ports and Textiles Minister Aslam Shaikh in February, in a bid to curb illegal fishing along Maharashtra’s 720-km long coastline.
At the meeting, the government noted that indiscriminate illegal fishing by local fishermen and those from neighbouring states in Maharashtra’s waters posed a danger to endangered marine species.
On July 24, the department had issued a circular ordering all mechanised fishing boats with one to six cylinder engines to install CCTV cameras and share their security footage every 15 days.
“Through the use of CCTV cameras, we will be able to observe every boat’s catch, the manner of fishing, keep an eye on other boats in the sea and control illegal fishing,” the order read.
Fisheries Commissioner Atul Patne later relaxed the order and exempted fishermen owning boats with one to three cylinder engines.
Damodar Tandel, who heads the Samiti, said that his expectations from the department were different.
“At the meeting in February, we had requested the minister to install CCTV cameras at 173 active landing points in Maharashtra. We have been demanding this ever since the 26/11 terror attacks. Had there been CCTV cameras on the docks, the government could have immediately identified the trawler that brought the whale shark on shore in Mumbai earlier this week,” he said.
Tandel added that fishermen owning boats with four to six cylinder engines, which are typically between 10 and 20 feet in length, would find it difficult to incur the additional expenses. “These fishermen usually earn between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 a month. Installing a CCTV camera and another electric dynamo to power it will cost between Rs 35,000 and Rs 40,000. How can they afford it?” he asked.
Tandel added that small mechanised boats would also find it difficult to find space to fix CCTV cameras and store recording devices. There are over 14,000 mechanised boats registered in Maharashtra, he said.
However, Patne said that fishermen operating mechanised boats have no choice but to install the cameras.
“The whale shark incident has made it especially important for boats to have CCTV cameras and fishermen to share their data with us regularly,” he said, adding that he left out smaller boats with one to three cylinder engines as they are not large enough to accommodate cabins where the cameras can be fixed.
He further said that the department had accepted the Samiti’s demand of installing CCTV cameras at landing points. “We have identified 70 landing points where cameras are required and have sent a proposal to the principal secretary. The system will require 24/7 monitoring and regular maintenance,” Patne added.
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