Deep-sea fishing: Workers observe strike in Kerala

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Kochi | Published: April 9, 2015 2:16:16 AM

Protesting against the move to allow more vessels for deep-sea fishing as per the recommendations of the Meenakumari Commission...

Protesting against the move to allow more vessels for deep-sea fishing as per the recommendations of the Meenakumari Commission, workers from the sector in Kerala observed a ‘coastal hartal’ on Wednesday. Fishermen abstained from fishing, with workers at harbours, landing centres and processing plants joining the strike.

An expert panel headed by B Meenakumari had suggested introduction of more vessels to exploit resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The recommendations include deploying 1,178 deep sea vessels, including existing ones, and an additional 270 vessels in the EEZ. The central government had recently decided to implement the report.

India is the second largest fish producer in the world after China and accounts for nearly 6% of global fish production.

Fish workers claim that allowing large fishing vessels to enter into the deep-sea fishing territory of the local fishermen would adversely affect the livelihood of the coastal community. The Kerala government has demanded scraping the report following widespread fears that the entry of foreign vessels would deny fishermen their livelihood.

The National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), the national federation of state-level small and traditional fish workers, has repeatedly opposed the implementation saying that the idea of opening up Indian seas is dangerous and detrimental to the fishing of Indian traditional fishers, as the fish resource is already been heavily depleted due to the non-ecological fishing done by these vessels. “We demand that wider consultations with the fishermen and their organisations should be held in all the 10 coastal states and Union territories before any decision is made on the implementation,” NFF sources said.

Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 7%, India’s marine and fish industry is likely to reach R67,800 crore by 2015 from the current level of nearly R53,000 crore, according to the apex industry body Assocham reports.

Meanwhile, fish landing from the vast Indian coast has declined in 2013 by 4% to touch 3.78 million tonne when compared to 2012. Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute reports that five states, including Kerala, witnessed decreased landings whereas six states and Union territories saw enhanced landings. The fall is mainly due to dip in the landings of Indian oil sardines, which was six lakh in 2013 against 7.2 lakh tonne in 2012 and this has reflected in overall landings.

Greenpeace reports say that around 90% of India’s fish resources are at or above maximum sustainable levels of exploitation and fisheries in India are at a tipping point.

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