Even as Gujarat ranks third amongst Indian states for fish production across marine and inland fishing, its fishermen get a raw deal because of polluted rivers and problematic regulations, as per a think tank’s report.
The main problem is the pollution in rivers, especially industrial effluents that flow untreated and result in food and oxygen scarcity in the water, leading to the depletion of fish and deterioration of water quality.
Another issue is the restriction on the size of nets which hurts small fishermen. The Gujarat Fisheries Act, 2003 mandates that the size for square mesh cod should be 40 mm. The think tank, Centre for Civil Society (CCS) in its report ‘Saving the Blue Economy’ also gave suggestions to improve the living conditions of fishermen in Gujarat, including by changing certain regulations.
In 2019-20, the total marine fish production was 37.27 lakh tonnes, with Gujarat contributing the most at 7.01 lakh tonnes (19 per cent) of the total production.
“These numbers, however, pale in comparison to the total inland fishing catch. Inland fish production was 104.37 lakh tonnes in the same period, with Gujarat contributing only 1.58 lakh tonnes. Gujarat ranks third amongst Indian states for fish production across marine and inland fishing,” the report pointed out.
No new licences have been issued as there is a shortage of berths at the harbours but no efforts are being made to address this problem, it said.
Gujarat has also put restrictions on displacement/migration and discouraged state-to-state interoperability for fishermen, boat owners etc., because of which boats once registered outside Gujarat are not allowed to enter its territorial waters, the authors of the report, Arjun Krishnan and Prashant Narang said.
Among the report’s recommendations, the top one is for the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to strictly enforce restrictions and quality standards on industrial effluents.
Reconsidering the restrictions on the size of nets, a single combined licensing and registration system for boats to simplify the process for fishermen and timelines for approvals for ensuring there is no delay would help in the long run to improve the lives of the fishermen, the CCS report recommended.