Fishing boat owners in Kerala on Monday ventured into deep sea fishing, defying the centre government’s 61-day uniform trawling ban which began on Sunday midnight. Kerala wanted the trawling ban be limited to 47 days, starting on June 14; a demand rejected by the centre.
As per the Centre’s directive, the traditional fishing activity involving motorized boats beyond 12 nautical miles away from the western coast has been banned for next 61 days. It is the first time, such a restriction has been imposed on traditional fishermen during trawling ban period.
Kerala Fisheries Minister K Babu said the state would not implement the Centre’s directive on trawling ban period. “Kerala would stick to its traditional trawling period of 47 days which starts on June 14. Besides, the state would not go by the directive that even traditional fishing activity would be allowed during the trawling ban season,’’ he said.
Kerala Fishing Boat Owners Association president Joseph Kalappurackal said of the 2000 trawling boats along Kerala coast, at least 1,200 have gone for deep sea fishing. “We would cooperate with the trawling ban only from the midnight of June 14, a practice the deep sea fishing sector in Kerala has been following since 1988.’’
National Fishermen Forum (NFF), a federation of state-level trade unions, secretary T Peter said the Union Government decision not allowing traditional fishermen using mechanized boats beyond 12 nautical miles during the trawling ban period was unacceptable. “The fishing ground is beyond 12 nautical miles. There have been no such restrictions in the past. Traditional fishermen were allowed to go for fishing even during the trawling ban season. Many mechanized boats go for fishing even up to 40 nautical miles. We have every right to fish in this zone,” he said.
(The country’s marine exclusive zone is from 12 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles. The traditional fishermen, using the mechanized canoes have been fishing in the zone in the past.)
The NFF secretary said the restriction beyond 12 nautical miles was meant to help big fishing vessels and foreign trawlers. If this stipulation is introduced, the traditional fishermen would starve during the trawling ban period. Besides, increasing the ban period from 47 to 61 makes a big difference for the fishermen.
Kerala Fishermen Congress leader T N Prathapan MLA said the Union Government has betrayed the traditional fishermen in Kerala. “The Centre had promised the state that traditional fishermen would be exempted from the purview of trawling ban. Mechanized boats that have returned to Kerala coast have informed us about the presence of the big ships and foreign vessels in the area banned for our fishermen. We are planning to violate the ban on traditional fishing after two days if the government fails to change its decision,’’ said Prathapan, who had last week brought Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to a fishermen convention in Thrissur coast.
Fishermen in Kerala have been on a warpath over a report by Dr Meena Kumari, a deputy director-general with the Fisheries Department of Indian Council of Agriculture, which had recommended that trawling ban be limited to native fishing vessels only. The report had recommended that foreign vessels can fish in India’s exclusive economic zone. Last month, the Agriculture Ministry had stated that it had rejected the recommendations. The 61-day ban on fishing, including that of mechanized boats, was suggested by Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.