Agri Business

National Fishworkers Forum urges MPs to defer Indian Marine Fisheries Bill, 2021

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on July 22, 2021

‘Traditional fishers were not included in the drafting process and the Bill was not even translated in the regional language’

The National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) has opposed the proposed Indian Marine Fisheries (IMF) Bill, 2021, saying that it is fundamentally against the interest of traditional marine capture fishers, fish workers and fisherwomen.

The Bill, which is going to be tabled in the current session of parliament, is curtailing the right of marine capture fishers, said Narendra Patil, Chairperson, NFF, urging parliamentarians of both the houses to defer the Bill until the concern of lakh of fish workers across the country are adequately addressed.

The new Bill has definitely created confusion among fishers rather any than clarity in coastal States. While a law to regulate fishing activities in the Indian EEZ and protect the rights to resources of small-scale fishers is needed, the manner in which the Bill and its previous versions have been rushed during the pandemic period excludes the fishing communities from consultation and decision-making.

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Exclusion and non-participation

The entire drafting process of the IMF Bill 2021 has been non-participatory (traditional fishers were not consulted or included in the drafting process) and the Bill was not even translated in the regional language, Patil said.

Further, the English version of the bill was available on the Department of Fisheries’ website for a few days only and suddenly taken down. The approach of the Government is a strategic exclusion and non-recognition of traditional fishing communities. It is essential to develop consultation mechanisms with the fishing community to fine tune and improve the provisions of the Bill, Patil said, adding that there should be wider consultations with all related draft policies and legislations.

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Olencio Simoes, general secretary, NFF, said that the Bill, in addition, provides powers to authorised officers to control post-fish landing processing and trading activities which will impact the lives and livelihoods of traditional fish vending fisherwomen across the coastal States. There is lack of clarity in many clauses and the Bill supersedes the states and other government rules vis-à-vis fishing in their coastal territorial waters.

Opposing various sections, NFF demanded that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted in consultation with traditional fishers since it dispossesses the customary rights over fisheries and denies the right to life and livelihoods of the marginalised fishers.

Spatial and temporal closures should be notified in consultation with State governments and Union Territories, fishing communities on the basis of current scientific information and advice, he said.

Published on July 22, 2021

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