Trawling for trouble: Chinese fishing off Arabian Sea irks Indian fishermen

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on January 27, 2021

More than 1,000 such trawlers are prowling the waters off the West Coast

Chinese intrusion into Indian territory seems not confined across land borders alone. The seas around also are abound with adventurous fishermen from across the territorial waters who violate the borders with impunity.

Increased presence of Chinese fishing trawlers, especially in the Arabian Sea, has forced the country’s mechanised fishing boat operators to voice their concern. It is pointed out that more than 1,000 such trawlers are prowling the waters off the West Coast, exploiting India’s fishery resources.

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Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal, general secretary, All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, said that these vessels — aided with sophisticated electronic gadgets — could well be mopping up internationally-acclaimed fish varieties at a time when local boats are prevented from venturing into deep seas, citing weather-related issues.

“Our fishermen are exceptionally talented at going for deep sea fishing. If permission is granted to them, the presence of Chinese fishermen could be reduced”, he told BusinessLine.

“It is suspected that these trawlers could well be targeting the petroleum hydrate resources from the bottom of the sea that could normally last for more than 300 years”, he said.

Lack of monitoring

Ganesh Nakhawe, Chairman of the Mumbai based All India Purse Seine Association, said these trawlers, with a capacity of 500 tonnes per boat compared to 10 tonnes in Indian boats, are frequently exploiting the migrating and pelagic fish resources.

At present, there is no monitoring of activities of these boats. This calls for a legislation that allows the country’s fishermen to venture into deep sea fishing. “Currently, we are venturing into Continental shelf (50-to 70 nautical miles) for fishing. If the government permits tuna, squid fishing by aiding fishermen with better technologies like the Chinese are using, Indian fishermen can exploit the deep sea resources, thereby earning considerable foreign exchange to the country”, he said.

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Each state in India controls its own territorial waters under the Marine Fisheries Regulation Act. However, there is a need for a separate legislation to control deep sea waters, which is not in place right now, Nakhawe said.

Pakistani hand

According to Jones Spartegus, a Research Fellow in Fisheries based in Thoothukudi, the rising presence of Chinese fishing trawlers in Indian waters had started after permission was granted to them for emergency shelter during Cyclone Vayu in 2019. However, these vessels have not been given any letter of permit to fish in Indian waters. They are engaged in unauthorised deep-sea fishing by intruding into the country’s EEZ for the catch.

Moreover, Pakistan has recently opened its EEZ for Chinese fishing trawlers which would send a message to China that Arabian Sea has no boundaries, he added.

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Published on January 27, 2021
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