Farmers Protest: Fisheries Bill

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 246

Toll 548

Fisheries Bill

After farmers and agriculture, the government is now moving to trap fisherfolk and fisheries. The government has listed the Indian Marine Fisheries Bill 2021 for the Monsoon Session.

According to latest statistics, India has around 4 million fishermen. Approximately 61 per cent of them are below Below Poverty Line (BPL). There are 3,288 marine fishing villages and 1,511 marine fish landing centres in 9 maritime states and 2 union territories.

The irony is, none of them were consulted when the new Bill was framed. Here is a brief overview of terms used in this piece:

- 1 Nautical Mile – 1.83 kilometre
- Territorial zone – 12 nautical miles (nm) from shore baseline
- Contiguous zone – 12 nm from end of territorial zone
- Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – 200 nm from end of territorial zone


Fishing is permitted on country craft boats within 5 nautical miles (nm) and on mechanised vessels between 5 and 12 nm. Over the years, as the availability of fish reduced in the terrestrial sea, fishermen on both country craft boats and mechanised vessels have moved far beyond the 12 nm mark. The state governments have control up to 12 nm from the base line, while the rest is vested with the Union government.

The fishermen depend on the continental shelf area and the EEZ because of the availability of fish in the terrestrial sea is shrinking. Over the years, there has been a drastic decline in fishing resources in the Indian ocean owing to destructive fishing practice by trawlers, climatic changes, the continental plate drift during the 2004 tsunami, and excess fishing by international long liners in the EEZ.

The Bill:

The Bill proposes to only grant licenses to vessels registered under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, to fish in the EEZ. It also puts the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) in charge of Monitoring Control and Surveillance, and heavy penalties for fishermen breaching the EEZ without a licence, not complying with ICG orders, and obstructing ICG officials. While it is true that some species of fish are protected and must not be fished, the mechanics of fishing is such that the fishermen can’t be selective when they throw the net to catch fish.

The fishermen use catamarans, country boats, fibre boats and mechanised vessels based on their financial condition, he said, adding that most fishermen are poor, and use country boats and fibre boats. The Bill lacks clarity on the varieties of boats to be registered. Obtaining a license is difficult, the charges are high, there are annual fees, fitness certificates need to be renewed, and on top of all this, the penalties are unaffordable for poor fishermen.

While it is good that the new Bill restricts foreign vessels from entering the EEZ, but in effect what this would mean is corporates backed by international fishing agencies would be encouraged.


The Bill is being brought in clearly so the government can make money by licensing foreign funded corporates. Traditional fishermen will suffer because corporate fishing will empty the seas. The Bill would impoverish 90 per cent of traditional fishermen, and benefit corporates waiting to monopolise the ocean’s fishing resources.

The Bill violates the Constitutional guarantees of the right to life and personal liberty, and the right against exploitation enshrined in Articles 21 and 23. In fact, a similar Bill was proposed by the Congress government in 2009 but was shelved amid opposition from the fishing community. But now, the BJP government has made a few modifications and drafted the Bill again.

More of the same? Just because the government has brute majority in the Lok Sabha?

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