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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Union Fishing Ministry to Issue Permits for Fishing at the High Seas

Fishermen bodies skeptical about the move saying it is a step towards corporatization

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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 Union ministry of fisheries has released “the draft guidelines for the regulation of fishing by Indian flagged vessels in the high seas 2022”, and it is in the process of formulating rules for issuing permits which will be valid for two years at a time.

The notification dated August 17 has instructed the Principal Secretaries of Fisheries Department in all coastal states and Union Territories to invite comments from all stakeholders on the draft guidelines. The comments are to be sent by August 30 to Joint Secretary [Marine Fisheries], Department of Fisheries, Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi-110001.

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As per the guidelines, permits can now be issued to any Indian Citizen, Indian Entrepreneur, Partnership Firm, Private Limited Company, Public Limited Company, Corporations, and Registered Co-operative Societies.
However, the guidelines are creating confusion since many questions related to the existing fishing industry have been left unanswered; Devendra Damodar Tandel, President of the Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti (AMKS), said.

Suggestions by AMKS

The fishing vessels are to be registered as per the Indian Merchant Shipping Act 1958 (IMSA). However, registration of fishing vessels under IMSA applies only to navigation between State Maritime boundary and Indian Maritime Time boundaries. For navigation within 12 nautical miles from the coast, a fishing vessel has to be registered under section 435-E of the act.

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If fishing vessels are to be navigated beyond 12 nautical miles up to 200 nautical miles, the same fishing vessels are also required to register under section 435-C of the said act. For navigation inside international waters, the registration of any vessel fishing has to be within the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) norms.

Besides, the draft is silent on protecting the interest of small-scale traditional fishermen fishing within the state maritime boundaries of 12 nautical miles. When fishing on high seas is allowed, the permit holders may offload the catch on their mother boats and take it directly for sale. How such activities will be checked is yet to be seen, Tandel said.

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AMKS has drafted specific suggestions to protect the local fishing community. “We have welcomed the initiative of permitting fishing operations in international waters since neighbouring China is exploiting all the marine resources at will and ensuring that Indian entities do not start exploiting these resources. We have demanded that India should sign the 2012 Cape Town Agreement of The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Tandel said.

“UNCLOS seeks not only to guarantee proper utilization of marine resources but also protects the lives of fishermen of the member countries. Our demand to sign this agreement is on the ground that draft regulations itself instruct the operators to conduct fishing activities as per UNCLOS guidelines.”

AMKS has suggested that the high sea operators should not be allowed to fish within 200 nautical miles from the coast, and there should be a dedicated navigation route for such vessels. This will help avoid conflicts between traditional fishermen and will also ensure that these operators do not conduct fishing activities within 200 nautical miles of coastline.

Only one separate landing port should be constructed for such vessels, per state for High Sea Fishing Operators. So that there will not be clashes between local fishermen and high sea operators since both will be vying for limited available space at the existing landing ports. Besides, the prices could be kept checked. Otherwise, local fishermen will not get a proper price for their catch since these operators will bring fish in large quantities.

There is no mechanism to curb the smuggling activities which may go unchecked when Indian operators are permitted to operate on High Seas. “We hope that traditional fishermen community is protected after enactment of High Seas Fishing act”, Tandel added.

Prescribed fishing operations for high seas under the guidelines:

  1. Purse Seine fishing operations
  2. Long Line fishing operations
  3. Gillnet cum Longline fishing operations
  4. Gillnet fishing operations
  5. Pole and line fishing operations
  6. Handline fishing operations
  7. Trolling fishing operations
  8. Mid-water pelagic trawl fishing operations
  9. Squid jigging fishing operations.

On the high seas, it is forbidden to use large driftnets (gillnets, other nets, or a combination of nets that are longer than 2.5 kilometres). Surface or submerged artificial lights cannot be installed, used, or operated by any vessels other than squid jiggers for aggregating fish.

Transshipping at sea will be prohibited absent prior authorization. To unload catch in a foreign port, the owner or operator must first obtain permission from the agency or institute recognized by the Indian government at least 48 hours in advance, along with the boat’s name, permit number, and owner or operator’s address.

The rules apply to all areas of the ocean that are not part of the exclusive economic zone, a state’s territorial sea, internal waters, or archipelagic waters.

Also Read: Former Bigg Boss Contestant and BJP Leader Sonali Phogat Passes Away


  • 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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