The Government give top priority to the Fisheries sector because (1) this sector provides employment and income to more than one million people, either directly or indirectly, (2) it satisfies the protein requirements of a considerable chunk of the population and (3) it provides considerable revenue, especially in foreign exchange, to the exchequer of the State. Hence the Government of Kerala have undertaken projects and programs for increasing production, for conserving and ensuring sustainable exploitation of fisheries wealth, for promoting cultivation of fish and prawns, for development of fishing harbours and facilities for landing of fish, for strengthening facilities for marketing of fish, and for the upliftment and welfare of the fisher-folk. Below given is the gist of the draft of the Fisheries policy of the Government of Kerala, which in fact is the blue print of the action plans for the developments in the sector and the welfare activities envisaged for the next twenty five years. Government hopes that Scientists, Opinion leaders, Socio-political leaders and all those interested in the matter will go through the draft and offer their learned suggestions and opinions.

Countries around the world are now remoulding their policies in the Fisheries sector, in the background of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation during the last decade or two, in tune with the changing global trends. The fisheries wealth is dwindling around the globe due to over exploitation and pollution and the World Food Organisation announced a Responsible and Integrated Fisheries Guidelines in 1995 to save this aquatic wealth from extinction. And India being a signatory, is bound to obey these guidelines. It is in this background that Kerala formulate a Fisheries Policy.

Kerala with a total terrestrial area of 38000 square kilometres has a coastal line of 590 kilometres. And the coastal sea which has the same area as the terrestrial area is one of the most productive areas as far as fishing is concerned. The major share of exports in this sector from India is from Kerala. More than a million people belonging to the fishing communities live in 222 fishing villages in the State. The traditional skill in fishing, courage and sense of adventure are their assets. About 2 lakh people depend on ancillary professions like processing of prawns and fish and marketing of fish for a living in Kerala.

The Policy

It is inevitable to ensure international standards in cultivation of fish, and the quality of fisheries products in the background of the liberalised market system that came into being as per the World Trade Treaty. Hence, the fish landing centres, and fishing harbours have to be maintained according to international standards. Government will ensure their proper maintenance utilising the user charge and toll collected through Harbour Development Societies and Fish Landing Societies.

The construction activities of the Harbour Engineering Department will be limited to the fishing harbours and fish landing centres. All other construction works will either be done by the Fisheries Department or by Fisheries Organisations by tendering them as per the existing rules.

Government will give priority to export of fisheries products, to let the products from Kerala to compete in the International markets, and to the production of Value Added Products. Further Government will facilitate private investment in the field of installation of ice plants, cold storages etc.

The ban on trawling during the monsoons in Kerala to ensure protection of the fisheries wealth will be implemented with the co-operation and backing of all sectors in this field. Since the fisher folk, traders and exporters have difference of opinion regarding the duration and period of trawling ban, so trawling ban will be implemented during a period and duration taking into consideration the opinion of all these sections.

Government of India usually enforce banning deep sea fishing near the Kerala coast, for large scale fishing vessels, during the trawling ban period. The Government of Kerala will demand that this ban on large fishing vessels in the deep seas near the Kerala coast should be enforced during other periods also.

During the period when the ban is in force, mechanised country boats with outboard engines and inboard engines above a specified horse power will not be permitted to fish.

Registration with the Kerala State Fisheries Department will be made compulsory for all boats fishing in the seas near the coast of Kerala State.

Controls will be enforced on boats utilising the ring-seine regulating the size of the boats, and weight and size of the nets.

Government will ban minitrawling in utilising country boats in areas where traditional country boats operate. This ban will be made applicable to pair trawling also.

Detailed discussions will be held on the report of Special Officer on the formation of the Coastal Development Authority. The functioning of this authority will be structured in such a way as to provide maximum benefits to the fisher men operating in the coastal areas and inland waters.

Government of India will be requested to amend the Coastal Area Regulation Act so as to enable the fisher folk to utilise of the coastal area for construction of houses and for occupations ancillary to fisheries.

The marine fish wealth of the Kerala seas will periodically be assessed with the help of agencies like C.M.F.R.I. Appropriate steps will be taken to regulate the excess number of boats in the Kerala seas in consultation with experts, trade union leaders and people’s representatives.

Steps will be initiated to strengthen the Enforcement Wing and to bring in better efficiency to the Fisheries Stations with the help of patrolling boats to enforce efficiently the provisions of the Kerala Marine Fisheries Regulation Act.

At present, the Fisheries Department has to bear considerable financial liability since too many police personnel are deployed in Fisheries Stations. Since these police personnel could not render their services during life saving missions at sea in recent incidents, groups of actual fishermen who have experience at sea will be constituted at Fisheries Stations and they will be deployed to undertake life rescue missions at sea, paying them remuneration. Those patrol boats now in disuse will be auctioned off and large fishing boats that can be repaired locally will be put in use.

Walkie-talkies will be supplied to fishermen venturing out into sea, and the wireless net work linking Fisheries Stations, Matsyabhavans, Patrolling boats and Personnel of the Fisheries Department will be expanded. This network system will be utilised for ensuring the security of the fishermen. Fishermen will be informed of the details of current movements of shoals of fish, received from Remote Sensing Agency, over the walkie-talkies. This wireless system will be made compatible with Cellullar Technology so that market price trends of fish could be received by the fishermen without delay.

It will be ensured that only actual fishermen are included in the annual list of fishermen prepared by the Fishermen’s Welfare Fund Board. Complaints have been received that people engaged in other professions register themselves as fishermen to obtain the benefits extended to fishermen. In this context, the Welfare Fund Board will be asked to publicise the draft list before finalising it at major points and the fishermen will be asked over newspapers, radio and television to bring to the notice of the authorities if they find that anybody engaged in other professions are included in the list. If any ineligible persons are included in the list, their names will be removed from the list and action will be taken against the officers responsible.

All fishermen will be supplied with identification cards with photographs at Government cost. This will help in ensuring that ineligible people do not get the benefits meant for fishermen.

Since the supply of kerosine oil from the Central Government made available as central assistance is limited, actual fishermen do not get sufficient quantity of kerosine oil for their outboard engines. One of the reasons for this is that, some people purchase kerosine oil for engines not currently in use and sell it in the black market. If this practice can be stopped, the real consumers will get more oil for their use. So permits issued for engines not in use, if any will be cancelled.

The Welfare Fund Board now disburses pension to the fishermen who are not able to work because of old age etc. But there have been complaints that ineligible people also get pension. Disbursement of pension to the ineligible will be stopped.

Since more than half of the fishermen now live in huts, a time-bound-program to provide houses to actual fishermen will be launched. For this, assistance from Central Fishermen’s Welfare Board, Hudco and other housing finance agencies will be sought. Taking into account the limitation in the availability of land in the coastal area,architectural modifications will be made in the designs of fishermen’s houses.

Efforts will be made to provide sanitation facilities in all fishing villages. For this financial assistance will be sought from Hudco, other financial agencies and international financing agencies.

Steps will be taken to instal solar lamps in fishing villages where electricity is yet to reach. For this the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy or international agencies will be approached for financial assistance.

Steps will also be initiated to function the Matsyabhavans set up in coastal panchayats as agencies for satisfying the various needs of the fishing commuinities as a single window system.

The Local Self Governments will be asked to entrust the responsibility of scrutinising and approving fisheries related projects with officers of the Fisheries Department, Matsyafed or Adak considering them as Technical Experts. All efforts will be made to treat fish production, aquaculture and related activities as agricultural occupations for all practical purposes and benefits given to farmers for electricity, water and other basic amenities extended to fisheries sector also.

Since basic data is of vital importance for planned development of the sector, the FIRMA will launch a website on the Fisheries sector. Further a map of the waterbodies suitable for aquaculture will be prepared with the help of the Local Self Governments and Research institutions. Further, the Government will persuade commercial banks to provide loans to farmers for aquaculture in tanks and ponds. Farmers’ Clubs will be set up locally and unemployed will be persuaded to take up activities like fish-feed production.

Fish and Prawn farmers will be persuaded to go for group farming and technical assistance and effective supervision provided to them. Special programs will be formulated for the conservation and development of fish and prawns under the threat of extinction. Further the Government will go for legislation to protect common water sources from the threat of pollution. Group Insurance facilities will be introduced in the field of aquaculture.

Projects will be formulated for developing fisheries wealth in the hither-to unexploited fields like integrated fish farming in inland waters, game fisheries etc. Further, projects will be prepared for cultivating cold water fish like the trout. For this, the Kerala State Electricity Board will be approached for permission to utilise all reservoirs for aquafarming. Private investment will be permitted in areas like Farm House Tourism, Aquariums, Oceanarium etc.

For preventing of the fish wealth from extinction and for ensuring the growth on a large scale, steps like by constructing artificial reefs in the sea and lakes, sawing fish seed in public water bodies etc.will be taken. The existing acts and rules relating to land use will be amended to promote integrated farming of paddy-fish, paddy-prawn combinations. To ward off any fears that this will harm the paddy cultivation and lead to loss of employment opportunities, awareness programs will be organised under ADAK.

Government will take steps to check disease to prawns and fish which causes heavy loss to fish farmers. Restrictions and controls will be imposed on importing fish/prawn seed from hatcheries outside the state. As part of these regulations, licensing system will be brought for hatcheries. Only those hatcheries that have facilities for various laboratory tests including P.C.R tests. Only those organisations and individuals having prescribed qualifications will alone be permitted to work as consultants in future. A High Power Committee under Adak will be constituted to supervise all these matters.This Committee will be given the powers to conduct checks in such farms and give technical suggestions.

Government will go for a unified Inland Fisheries Act, modifying the Travancore-Cochin Fishing Act and Indian Fishing Act suitably, since there is no unified laws incorporating provisions for the development of inland fisheries. Steps will be taken to obtain the licence from the National Aquaculture Agency for cultivation of prawn in areas under the purview of Coastal Regulation Act and Govrnment will promote aquaculture maintaining the ecological balance as per the guidelines of the National Aquaculture Agency. Government will also prepare projects for the establishment of P.C.R laboratories having all the facilities for ensuring the quality of fish seed and controlling the white spot disease of prawns, in co-operation with Local Self Governments. The Panchayats, Municipalities, and Corporations should give only to the FFDA, the inland waters under their administrative control for lease for short term periods from five to seven years and for long term lease for fifteen years or more. The FFDAs will impart training to fish farmers and set them up as groups and make them prepared for undertaking fish farming in natural water bodies. Efforts will be made to make loans available from commercial establishments for fish farming.

Taking into consideration the importance of maintaining the ecological balance of the estuaries, the maximum number of fixed nets and Chinese nets will be assessed. The existing nets owned by actual fishermen and its licenced will be re-registered under the proposed Inland Fisheries Act. All the existing unlicensed nets, will be removed in phases within the next five years, without taking into account the nature of ownership. However, those nets that have been operated for more than ten years and licensed to Welfare Organisations will be protected.

Steps will be initiated to bring in efficiencey to the fish seed production centres under Matsyafed and Fisheries Department. Government will promote establishment of new hatcheries, that observe all the norms, in the private sector also. All Fisheries Development projects except Centrally sponsored schemes, model farms and aquaculture training centres will be entrusted with ADAK.

It is estimated there exist in Kerala, reservoirs to the extent of 40,000 hectares plus. Out of these, scientific aquaculture is done only in 10 reservoirs. The majority of the reservoirs in the state are under the administrative control of Kerala State Electricity Board or the Forest Department. Steps will be taken to see that the fishing rights in these reservoirs is given to the Fisheries Department.

Though Kerala has made rapid strides in the field of Tourism, we are yet to launch Fisheries Tourism. The reservoirs, lakes, ponds, rivers and rivulets offer new potential for the development of Fisheries Tourism. The reservoirs in the high ranges are suitable for angling of Mahasir fish. Hatcheries will be established for the development of such fish wealth here. Steps will be taken to attract foreign tourist to such areas with the help of angling associations.

Seminars and exhibitions will be conducted to make people aware of the potential of development of ornamental fisheries roping in the services of all agencies in this sector, on a national level. So also programs for the development of this sector will be formulated on a time bound basis.

To conserve the genetic diversity of fish which is facing the threat of extinction, mangroves will be developed on the beaches of lakes in the State.

In Kerala there is about 20000 hectares of lakes suitable for the development of aquaculture. Steps will be taken to promote aquaculture that includes cultivation of prawns, crabs etc. in these lakes. Assistance will be provided to farmers for this through Brackish Water fish farmers Agency. In the context of the natural regeneration of certain fresh water and brackish water fish being prevented by various reasons, a program to rear the young ones of such fish in artificial environment and then releasing them to the natural water bodies will be implemented.

The activities of Matsyafed which is a producer co-operative will be strengthened in the field of marketing. Strong auction system will be introduced to rescue the fishermen from exploitation. Matsyafed will set up clean fish markets with all modern amenities with the help of Local Self Governments. The tenure of the Matsyafed and affiliated primary co-operative societies will be brought down to three years from the existing five years. Many of the 654 primary co-operative societies under Matsyafed are now defunct. More over they impose financial burden on the Government. Hence such defunct primary co-operative societies will be abolished and their members affiliated to neighbouring societies.

There are cases where the same individual has membership in more than one co-operative society. Thus that individual is able to obtain assistance from more than one society while many other eligible are denied such benefits. So no labourer in the fisheries sector will be permitted to be member of more than one co-operative society. Government will ensure that membership to Fishermen’s Co-operatives is restricted only for actual labourers in the field. The provision to give two per cent of the membership to others will be given up. This move will eliminate the chances of those who are not labourers in the fisheries sector becoming members of the administrative committee of the Matsyafed.

Taking into account the incidence of unemployment among the women of the fishing communities, small self help groups of such women will be organised and job-oriented training imparted to them. For this the existing Fishermen’s Bank will be reconstituted and their activities extended. To bring in better efficiency in the Fisheries Department and related agencies, the professional management system will be introduced and better training offered to the personnel. Graduates in Fisheries Sciences will be given priority for appointment to the cadere of officers in such organisations.

In certain organisations like the Fishermen Welfare Fund Board, so many officers from other departments work on deputation. Many of them are in no way related to the fisheries sector. Since higher pay scale and amenities have to be given to such officers, the administrative expenses of the organisation increase and the regular staff of the organisation become unsatisfied. Hence the deputation system will be continued only for those posts for which such posting is absolutely necessary. The NIFAM which is nearing completion will function as an autonomous organisation. All the training needs of the Fisheries Department, Matsyafed, Fishermen’s Welfare Fund Board, and Fish Farmers Development Agencies will be met by this organisation. There will be separate wings to handle staff training, co-operative training, and technical training and expert trainers will be appointed for all these wings. All the Awareness Centres of the Fisheries Department will be brought under this organisation. The working system of the Fisheries Technical Schools will be improved.

The fruits of the research and studies conducted by the Research Centres of national importance at Kochi will be made available to the fisheries sector in the State. In the past, Fisheries Department had spent lakhs of Rupees for assisting fisheries related studies to Universities and other Research Organisations. But many of these organisations have not completed the studies within the specified period or have not provided the accounts of the expenses for the conduct of these studies. In certain other cases, after spending hefty amounts, they have dropped the studies half way. In this context, in future, such studies will be conducted by the Fisheries Department and related agencies directly.

A special literacy program concentrating of fishing villages will be launched. The women’s associations of the community will be provided with assistance for organising activities for empowerment of women.

Special projects will be launched for providing safe drinking water in fishing villages. Projects to harvest rain water will be implemented. The schemes to provide incentives for the education of the children of the fishing folk will be extended to cover the occasional courses and other services in self-financing institutions also. Steps will be taken to bring down the rate of drop-outs belonging to this community from schools. Voluntary organisations working for this will be promoted. Many of the girls are compelled to stop education and act as baby sitters where both the parents have to go to work. To solve this problem, child care centres will be opened in the fishermen’s villages.

This is the gist of the draft of the Fisheries policy announced by the Government. Government welcome suggestions, opinions etc. regarding this so that they could be also be considered before finalising the policy draft.