The National Fishworkers Forum is up in arms against the draft Fisheries Policy 2020, saying that the government’s intention is not in favour of fishing communities or for protecting the oceans and the coast.

The Forum highlighted the procedural lapses on the part of Fisheries Ministry in putting out the policy on the website of the National Fisheries Development Board without giving any space for receiving comments from stakeholders or a cut-off date. It is even more appalling that the policy has not been uploaded on the Ministry’s website.

The policy, the Forum said, has been uploaded in the midst of the pandemic when trade unions are busy helping out to bring back migrant fishworkers.

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Discussing the policy through a webinar, NFF submitted to the Ministry that the time for comments should be extended and the policy should be translated into regional languages. Urging the Ministry not to go ahead with the draft policy without consultation with stakeholders, the Forum called for discussions within the communities across the coastal States before moving ahead.

There are several contradictions in the policy which appear in the productive integration of fisheries and economic sectors such as agriculture, coastal development, tourism and blue economy. It is neither people-centric nor equitable. There is no clarity on how the fisheries management works in Centre-State and inter-State cooperation with special emphasis on traditional and small scale fisheries.

Not women-friendly

There is a great emphasis to make fisheries move to mariculture with the logic that marine capture fisheries are economically risky and therefore they need to change occupation. The policy is not women-friendly, despite the fact that they are engaged in capture fisheries in marine, backwaters, estuaries, and inland. The government does not even have any comprehensive data on women who are in the sector, the Forum said.

There is a total neglect of traditional knowledge of fishworkers and this has been a constraint to the development of fisheries. There is nothing on rights in the policy, and development without rights would lead to the eviction of fishworkers from their livelihood.

The post-harvest development has a lot of emphasis in the draft – but there is no mention of fish vendors, especially in domestic consumption and distribution. The thrust has been given to culture fisheries and the policy aims at the rationalising of schemes under Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana, which is largely shrimp culture and mariculture.

There is also a vague mention of sustainable development goals even through the rationalising of the policy is aimed at doubling income and exports as well as blue growth initiatives.