Re-routing of merchant ships in the Arabian Sea: Fishing community gears up for agitation

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on July 31, 2020

Fishermen fear that the move would lead to a rising number of collisions involving passing ships and fishing boats   -  THE HINDU

Fishermen and boat owners to hold dharna tomorrow

Kerala’s traditional fishing community is gearing up for an agitation over the Shipping Ministry’s notification for re-routing of merchant ships in the Arabian Sea. They fear that the move would lead to a rising number of collisions involving passing ships and fishing boats.

Charles George, State president of Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi, told BusinessLine that the July 2 notification on the new routing would come into force from August 1. But the authorities have not discussed the matter either with the State Government or the fishing communities before going ahead with the amendments.

Given the rising number of accidents between merchant ships and fishing boats, he said the State Fisheries Department has asked to redraw the shipping channel route towards 50 nautical miles from the seashore to further west off the Arabian Sea so as to facilitate smooth fishing operations. The Southern States Fisheries Ministers Conference States held in Kochi in 2018 had also favoured a decision in this regard.

He also cited instances of mishaps involving passing merchant ships and fishing boats in the Arabian Sea that claimed several lives and injuries to fishermen and damages to their fishing fleets. So far, there are over 9 such accidents during 2012-2018 and criminal cases are pending in various courts.

Request rejected

But with the current move, the Shipping Ministry has rejected all these requests and come out with a notification under the pretext of ensuring a safe navigation for merchant vessels, he said.

According to George, the fisheries coordination committee consists of 11 fish workers unions and boat owners association is organising a dharna in front of the Cochin Port Trust on August 1 and is planning to intensify the protest including a blockade of the shipping channel, if the Ministry withdraws the notification with immediate effect.

He pointed out that several fishing boats are operating on the Kerala coast in the first channel called Quilon Bank due to abundant availability of Karikkadi prawns, squid, cuttlefish etc. Likewise, there are several other stretches in the regions extending from south to northern part in the shipping channel which witnessed increased fishing activities. But there was no mention about the existence of other rich fishing sources in the notification where gillnet boats, trawling boats, traditional fish workers with fibre canoes operate.

Of the 590-km Kerala coast, he pointed out that the mentioned stretch in the notification was only 85 km and the remaining has to be declared which includes Chettuva, Manjappara and Ezhimala banks that are potential fishing zones.

The new notification, once it comes into effect, is likely to affect the livelihood of the fishing communities who are finding greater difficulties in the recent period on account of dwindling catches and a drought-like conditions in the sea.

Published on July 31, 2020

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