The government on Wednesday introduced The Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023 in the Lok Sabha which seeks to decriminalise the offences committed in those geographical areas, so that genuine business activities get a boost. Union Fisheries Minister Parshottam K Rupala introduced the Bill in the lower House amid din.

The Bill seeks to expand the scope, remove regulatory gaps and reduce the regulatory compliance burden without diluting environmental protection rules in the coastal areas. Once passed, it will decriminalise the offences as only a penalty of up to ₹1 lakh can be imposed and there will not be imprisonment, whereas currently, there is also provision for a jail term of up to three years apart from fine.

With an average land size of 2-4 hectares, the aquaculture provides employment to lakhs of people in coastal areas, The shrimp production has increased to around 10 lakh tonnes (lt) in 2021-22 from about 75,000 tons in 2008-09. The seafood exports have also grown at an average 15 per cent in last few years to reach record ₹57,586 crore in 2021-22 in with brackish water shrimp had the lion’s share of ₹42,706 crore.

Environment friendly culture

Through the amendments, the government wants to promote newer forms of environment friendly coastal aquaculture such as cage culture, seaweed culture, bi-valve culture, marine ornamental fish culture and pearl oyster culture which has the potential for creating additional employment opportunities on a large scale for coastal fisher communities especially fisherwomen.

The amended law will also help usher in global best practices in this sector, including mapping and zonation of aquaculture areas, quality assurance and safe aquaculture products.

It will help encourage establishment of facilities in areas having direct access to seawater to produce genetically improved and disease-free broodstock and seed for use in coastal aquaculture. Further, the amended law will prevent the use of antibiotics and pharmacologically active substances, which are harmful to human health in coastal aquaculture.

The Amendment Bill also aims to promote production, productivity and exports, traceability and increased competitiveness and entrepreneurship, leading to a sustained increase in incomes, employment and economic activity in rural areas along the coast in an environmentally sustainable manner.