The Madras High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government on a PIL seeking quashing of a government order prohibiting fishing by mechanised vessels, motorised country craft and those using mechanised techniques in a radius of five nautical miles around potential nesting and breeding sites of sea turtles. The court issued notice, returnable by November 28 and posted the matter along with a suo motu PIL taken up earlier on the basis of a news item on deaths of turtles.
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The present PIL was filed by ‘Then India Meenavar Welfare Association represented its president V Sankar. The petitioner referred to a government order dated September 27, 2016 which prohibits fishing, identified by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute and Department of Forest, in the coastal areas of Chennai, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari districts for four months from January 1 every year.
The petitioner submitted that poor fishermen and their families would be “seriously prejudiced, put to starvation and poverty because of the prohibitory order”. Noting that the suo motu PIL was based on the media report on turtle deaths, the petitioner said country boats, catamarans and traditional boats were all small boats which were lesser than 15 metres and having motors less than 25 horse power.
These small boats do not have any mechanised method of fishing and were incapable of voyaging into the deep sea and were engaged in fishing within three nautical miles and permitted to fish beyond three nautical miles using hook and line, the petitioner said. He further submitted that if the death of turtles had occurred due to injury of being run over by huge vessels or been entangled in nets, it cannot be blamed on the country boats and catamarans, which were incapable of carrying lengthy nets and which do not engage in mechanised method of fishing.
“Therefore, the prohibition directly affects the life and livelihood of those fishermen using physical means of fishing through country boats and catamarans,” he said and sought quashing of the government order.