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Maharashtra – Fishermen Condemn New Coastal Fishing Regulations

The amendment to the Maharashtra Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1981, stipulates a ban on catching fish of smaller sizes as also compulsory training for fishermen

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

INDIA. Mumbai: The fishermen of Maharashtra are up in arms over the recent amendment to the Maharashtra Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1981, which stipulates norms to prevent illegal fishing. The regulation now includes a ban on catching fish of smaller sizes and compulsory training for fishermen.

The Maharashtra government passed the resolution to amend the act on October 6 and the decision was recently ratified by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. The act extends to the whole of Maharashtra including its territorial waters.

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Under the amendment, catching fish of smaller sizes has been made a punishable offence. The provision is to conserve the smaller size fish varieties. Fishing with purse seine nets has also been banned. 

Under the purse seine fishing, a large wall of netting is deployed around an entire area or school of fish. 

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All those operating mechanized fishing boats will be required to undergo compulsory training of boat rowing under the Directorate General of Shipping (DG Shipping) before they are issued the licenses. The disputes which hitherto dealt with by respective tehsildars will now be handled by the officers of the Maharashtra Fisheries department.

The cost of violation include a fine of Rs five lakh for the mechanized fishing boats operating without a license, Rs one lakh to Rs six lakh fine on purse seine, ring seine, and trawl fishing, Rs five to Rs 20 lakh for fishing with LED lights, Rs one to Rs five lakh for violating the Turtle Excluder Device regulations and Rs one lakh to Rs five lakh for catching tiny fish. 

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Separately a fine of Rs five lakh will be imposed for a repeat offence. The fishermen from outside Maharashtra will be fined Rs two lakh to Rs six lakh if found fishing in the state’s territorial waters. Additionally, they will have to pay the fine equivalent to five times the yield seized.

Outcry over the fishing regulations

However, the Maharashtra Machchimar Kruti Samiti (MMKS), an action committee of Maharashtra fishermen have opposed these new regulations saying that the regulation will open a wide vista to the “corrupt” officers of the fisheries department who now will play the role of the “judge, jury & executioner” in dealing with disputes.

Speaking to the “Transcontinental Times,” MMKS President Devendra Damodar Tandel said that while a move to curb illegal fishing is welcome, new regulations seek to complicate the situation instead of giving relief to already harassed fishermen who struggle to get normal yield due to the encroachment into the sea following developmental projects like Bandra-Worli sea-link, proposed coastal road, etc. ‘Besides, to ban on catching the smaller size fish is ridiculous.’ 

The size of many varieties including Java, Kardi, Tendli and Mandeli remains the same all throughout. A majority of fishermen survive on these smaller size fishes, available near the coast. As such the government should clarify which varieties of fish fall in their “smaller size” category.

“Also, the traditional fisher folks know how to operate the boats right from their childhood. As such to give them compulsory training is unwarranted. Besides, DG Shipping does not have trainers and is certain to outsource them. Imagine the cost involved and time waste in imparting training,” Devendra Tandel said.

“One has to wait inordinately to get the Vessel Registration Certificate (VRC) from the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB). It is not clear whether the applicants can go fishing, with pending registration. The government should simplify the system of registration instead of making it complicated.”

“After the regulations to prevent purse seine fishing were introduced on February 5, 2016, the number of purse seine boats was to be reduced from 494 to182. But instead, that number went up and today there are over 2000 purse seine boats in operation, due to the “blessing” of the officers of the fishing department. The boats include the boats within the state and the boats from outside Maharashtra. My father late Damodar Tandel, had brought many such instances to the notice of the fisheries department but no concrete action was taken against the offenders,” Devendra Tandel added.

Fisheries Minister Aslam Shaikh said that the act has been overhauled after 40 years to prevent illegal fishing activities to safeguard the interest of the traditional fishing community. If they have any grievances, they will be looked into.

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  • Raju Vernekar

    Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

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