The spiralling fuel cost is a concern raised by the fishing community and they have highlighted the same as their comments in the draft of National Fisheries Policy 2020, urging the government to take effective steps to tide over the worsening situation.

Any national policy on fishing without addressing the problem of rising diesel prices will torpedo attempts to mitigate the expenses and streamline modern methods of fishing, the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association said.

Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary of the association, said currently fishing has become a high-cost incurring profession as the price of diesel is being increased every day. “Any national policy on fishing without addressing the problem of diesel prices has no nexus with the policy,” he said.

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The association also pointed out that the Covid pandemic has reduced the number of fishing days, leading to drop in fish prices and pushing the folk to virtual penury. The marketing of fish without the interference of middlemen is the urgent need of the hour. The middlemen, auctioneer and the buyer are often one man or a group disguised in different names and exploiting the fishermen.

Chinese trawlers

The association also highlighted the presence of Chinese fishing trawlers intruding into Indian waters to amass the sea resources. The paradox is that these trawlers light five lakh watt powerful bulbs to lure the fish en masse, while the country's fishing boats are forbidden to use bulbs and fish in the darkness, he said.

Narendra R Patil, chairperson of National Fishworkers Forum, said the entire draft NFP 2020 is largely focussed and designed for deep-sea fishers and not for the small-scale fishers. The marine fisheries sector plays a vital role in maritime trade and commerce, and also serves as a significant livelihood for millions of fishing and coastal communities.

NFF fundamentally disagrees with this approach, as it is going to impact the livelihoods and well-being of traditional and small scale fish workers. It also degrade the marine and coastal ecology. “We strongly demand to redraft NFP 2020 on the lines of need based economy principle for sustaining the marine and coastal resources for the future generations of India,” Patil said.

The Fisheries Department took eight months to arrive at the 6th Draft of NFP 2020, which had been uploaded on January 15, 2021 and the deadline for the comments is on January 30, which is hardly 15 days for giving public comments. A serious policy of this nature needs wider consultation with the different stakeholders in the fishing community and the deadlines should be extended, he said.

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