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Fishermen may get deep sea vessels to go to exclusive economic zone

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-03-2017 Jyotika Sood

New Delhi: India wants its fishermen to venture into the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by equipping them with deep sea vessels to fish beyond its territorial waters.

The idea is to prevent over exploitation of shallow water marine life and harness the resources in India’s exclusive economic zone .

While territorial waters extend up to 12 nautical miles from the coast, exclusive economic zones extend up to 200 nautical miles.

India has exclusive rights to utilize natural resources such as minerals, marine life and hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone .

The vessels currently used by coastal fishermen are not suitable to fish in exclusive economic zone waters.

Deep sea vessels with freezers and processors to store the catch are needed to fish in exclusive economic zone.

The government plans to subsidize the purchase of these vessels, which cost around Rs1 crore each.

To start with, the government plans to provide 1,000 such vessels to the fishermen.

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The plan is part of the government’s coastal community development plan under its Sagarmala programme.

The Sagarmala programme envisages the construction of new ports to harness the country’s 7,517km coastline and set up as many as 142 cargo terminals at major ports at an estimated cost of Rs93,000 crore.

“Community development is an equally important part which we are concentrating on. As part of this, the department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries and the shipping ministry will provide subsidy to the fishermen for buying these deep sea fishing trawlers,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.

The animal husbandry and fisheries department is part of the ministry of agriculture and farmer’s welfare.

Speaking at the first Maritime India Summit in Mumbai in April last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the government will help bring in modern and sophisticated fishing vessels, enabling fishermen to harness resources in India’s exclusive economic zone.

“Catching fish or marine resources requires processing, too. For deep sea fishing, ministry of agriculture is working on new projects like deep sea fishing vessels… The ministry of agriculture will be coming out with the scheme and shipping ministry would be financing it,” said a second government official who also didn’t want to be identified.

While India has the right to exploit its EEZ, Indian fishermen are at a disadvantage because of their poor vessel conditions and lack of skills. To overcome this problem, the government is also imparting training under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana in five coastal states. “We are also imparting training to them. There is a tendency to over exploit shallow water fish and marine resources. At the same time, you have a good wealth of marine resources in deep sea but they require very careful handling and are costly vessels. These vessels should have deep freezer, processors, etc., and would cost around Rs1 crore each. At present we are looking to subsidize around 1,000 vessels and later can increase it after seeing the response to the scheme. The number is not finalized yet,” said a third government official, requesting anonymity.

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V. Vivekanandan, a member of the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), said Sagarmala will have a huge negative impact on the fishing community, and in this regard, SIFFS is meeting shipping ministry officials this week. He declined to comment on the scheme, saying the concept of Sagarmala is still debatable.

Narendra R. Patil, chairperson of the National Fishworkers’ Forum, said the fishing community across the Indian coast has around 3.5 million people dependent on it and one such scheme cannot help rehabilitate all of them. He said the negotiations of fishing community with the government was still on to ensure that the impact of Sagarmala on the fishing community is reduced as much as possible.

Queries emailed to the spokespersons for India’s ministries of shipping and agriculture on 24 February remained unanswered.

India’s port sector initiatives will create approximately 10 million jobs in the next 10 years, including four million direct and six million indirect jobs, according to shipping minister Nitin Gadkari.

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