Kerala on Monday went against the Centre's 61-day uniform fishing ban, which came into effect at midnight, as it decided to allow fishermen in the state to continue operating till June 15, the conventional date for the beginning of the mandatory annual proscription.
Making it clear that the United Democratic Front government would not impose the embargo in its waters from today, Fisheries minister K Babu said that, as in previous years, it would be in force in Kerala for 47 days from June 15 to July 31. He also stated that traditional fishermen would be allowed to fish within up to 12 nautical miles in the territorial waters during this period.
Fishermen in Kerala are on the warpath against the National Democratic Alliace government's decision to extend the trawling ban from 47 days to 61 days to protect marine health and in keeping with certain provisions of the Meenakumari report on deep sea fishing in coastal areas.
Kerala Fisheries Coordination Committee chairman V Dinakaran said fishermen have the right to fish in the territorial waters of the country. Instead of preventing them, the government should discourage foreign trawlers in Indian waters, he said.
All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association Secretary Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal said their boats have already put out to sea and would return with the catch only by June 14.
The Kerala Swathanthra Matsyathozhilali Federation and National Fish Workers Forum have also said that traditional fishermen would put out to sea in deep waters in their mechanised boats.
According to the federation, the right to fish within 200 nautical miles off the Indian coast rests with traditional fishermen and the government should not allow foreign vessels to fish in waters up to 12 nautical miles off the coast. They also want the government to allow traditional fishermen to engage in fishing beyond 12 nautical miles.
The Centre had issued a notification in April this year imposing uniform fishiing ban for 61 days in the Exclusive Economic Zone from June 1 to July 31.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi last week and discussed issues concerning fishermen, two days after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi criticised the Centre's decision to extend the trawling ban.
Chandy had also submitted a memorandum to Modi requesting that the Centre reconsider the notification imposing total fishing ban for 61 days and to limit the ban period to 47 days from June 15 to July 31, as is the case every year. He had told the prime minister that a large section of the coastal population in Kerala depends solely on fishing.