The Meenakumari committee recommendations on deep sea fishing has put traditional fishermen and mechanised fishing boat owners on the war path. The fisheries sector, of late, is seeing a series of protests against the move to implement the report, which they feel will affect their livelihood.

Among other things, the committee had recommended creation of offshore buffer zones up to 200 metres, allowing foreign trawlers to fish beyond 12 nautical miles, legislation to regularise Indian fishing fleets, etc.

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute also said some of the findings of the committee are objectionable, including the creation of buffer zones.

Report questioned

Endorsing the stand of the protesting group, fisheries experts questioned the propriety of the Meenakumari committee report when several other expert reports on fisheries submitted earlier were kept in cold storage for more than a decade.

A Ramachandran, Professor, School of Industrial Fisheries, Cochin University of Science and Technology, told BusinessLine that the Murari Committee in 1996 had recommended sustaining the marine resources along with protecting the interests of fishermen and utilisation of deep sea resources in the exclusive economic zone.

The Government later appointed the Gopakumar committee to draft a Comprehensive Marine Fisheries Policy (CMFP) in 2004 which proposed sustainable harvest of marine fishery resources. Its recommendations were also kept in abeyance for 10 years before the latest committee headed by Meenakumari for Comprehensive Review of Deep Sea Fishing Policy and Guidelines 2014.

According to him, the proposals to keep 200-500 metres in the ocean as buffer zone and to lift the existing fishing ban during monsoon season for deep sea fishing vessels is without any scientific basis.

Likewise, the proposal to pay $25,000 per annum to foreign crew will keep the Indian crews away from getting sufficient training on board. India, unlike most other countries, has never signed a fisheries access agreement with a Distant Water Fishing Nation (DWFN) and has persisted for decades in its attempts to develop its own offshore industrial fisheries to protect the national interest. The result: the country could not utilise the marine resources available in the Indian EEZ beyond 200 metres depth, Ramachandran said.

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