Kerala fish workers seem to be not happy with the new sub-scheme of PM Matsya Sampada Yojana at ₹6,000 crore, saying that the sanctioned amount is very meagre considering fisheries activities across the coastal States of the country.

Charles George, State President of Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi (TUCI), said there were instances when other coastal States have benefited out of a major portion of the sanctioned amount to the fisheries sector on earlier occasions with Kerala receiving only minimal. Even the Centre has not allotted its share of ₹1,500 announced for each fish worker during Covid-19 as a Savings cum Relief package when the pandemic disrupted their fishing activities.

There are several self-help groups (SHG) in fisheries sector, and there was no mention of their role in the Budget, he said.

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V.Dinakaran, General Secretary of Dheevara Sabha, said it was the aquaculture sector that is getting all the benefits of central funds sanctioned by the Government and not fish workers. Kerala has around 14 lakh fish workers venturing into deep sea and inland fishing. The Centre has not even sanctioned the ₹2,000 crore Covid package to the workers so far. The newly-sanctioned amount in the Budget should be earmarked for beneficial scheme of fish workers in coastal areas.

Dinesh Kaippilly, Head of Aquaculture Department, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) and Nodal Officer of Kerala-Norway collaboration on fisheries sector, said the assistance of ₹6,000 crore earmarked for the development of fisheries sector seems low to continue the momentum of PMMSY aimed at the overall fisheries and aquaculture growth.

However, A. Gopalakrishnan, Director, ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), said the announcement will take forward a slew of measures initiated as part of the PMMSY to modernise the marine fisheries and in improving value chain efficiencies besides expanding the market for seafood and its derivative products.

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He said the announcement is expected to catalyse diversification of the livelihood activities of coastal dwellers, including emerging options, such as marine and coastal cage farming, seaweed farming, mussel and oyster farming, and ornamental fish breeding and culture.

Kaippilly said the concept of encouraging start-up programmes in fisheries and aquaculture as part of agricultural growth exactly matches the vision and is highly appreciated. This will open doors to hundreds of fisheries professionals to anchor on this sector for improving the livelihood of thousands of stakeholders through the generation of new jobs. As the most widely recognised health food, fish will become more popular on a day-to-day basis for which the programmes may help.