Introduction of central legislation (Marine Fishery Act) is a key policy suggestion proposed by the ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) aimed boosting India’s marine fisheries sector.

The proposed Act is necessary for the regulation of fishing in areas beyond territorial waters to address policy and legislative vacuum, providing a much needed frame-work for sustainable practices, A Gopalakrishnan, Director of CMFRI said.

He presented the proposals during the discussion on certification and sustainability in the marine sector at the high-level national workshop organised by the NITI Aayog at CMFRI.

Key proposals

Institutionalisation of regular stock assessments of marine fishery resources was another major recommendation. The government has to institutionalise a regular mechanism for the stock assessment of these resources, as resource health status is going to be crucial in WTO subsidy negotiations and other national and international discourse, Gopalakrishnan said.

Referring to the recent debate on certification of Indian marine fisheries, CMFRI suggested a national guideline on the eco-labelling of marine fishery resources.

The proposals also included streamlining of open sea mariculture, emphasising the need for sustainability and equity to receive adequate focus in determining different ownership and operatorship formats for scaling-up mariculture activities.

Implementation of AI-mediated automated mechanisms for landing estimation, tracking of fishing vessels through Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), and analytics of sub-stock-level information also found a place in the proposal.

Focused research and exploration projects are required to assess and characterise deep-sea and non-conventional fishery resources, Gopalakrishnan added.

Establishing an institutional mechanism for overseeing deep-sea fishing was also recommended, with a clear emphasis on economic viability and adherence to national and state-specific policy guidelines. He also underscored the importance of estimating the potential and exploring the possibility of utilising mesopelagic resources as source for fish meal, citing a rough potential of 1.6 million tonnes of these resources per year.

To protect the interest of fishers, strengthening of accident insurance, fishing vessel insurance, and coastal immovable asset insurance is required through technological and policy interventions, he said, adding that the ongoing artificial reef installation programmes in coastal waters should be intensified with mechanisms for continuous impact assessment monitoring and improvisation.

JK Jena, Deputy Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), who moderated the discussion, said India needs to achieve sustainable production from coastal waters and enhanced production from offshore waters. One of the approaches to intensify capture fish production is the exploitation of oceanic and deep-sear resources, which are yet to be tapped fully, he added.