Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take a series of steps so that the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is not swamped by foreign fishing vessels.
In a letter to Modi, the text of which was released to the media here, he said the recent decisions of the union agriculture ministry "could in effect lead to swamping by foreign fishing vessels in India's EEZ and also increase the regulatory burden on domestic fishing fleets".
"The new guidelines issued by the government of India will adversely affect the local fishermen in Tamil Nadu because, out of the 5,500 mechanised fishing boats in Tamil Nadu, more than 80 percent of the boats are above 15 metres in OAL (overall length) and are engaged in near-shore fishing just beyond the territorial waters of India," Panneerselvam said.
"Obtaining LOPs (Letters of Permission) from the government of India and voyage clearances from the Indian Coast Guard for each fishing voyage is extremely impractical," he said.
Panneerselvam also said the new guidelines are illegal as it contravenes Section 7(5) of the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976.
Under these provision, an Indian citizen need not get any licence or letter of authority from the central government for fishing in the EEZ.
Panneerselvam said the consolidated Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy does not allow foreign investment in the fisheries sector.
"Hence the notification dated 12.11.2014 bringing within the ambit of the operator, a joint venture company with at least 51 percent Indian equity is not in conformity with the consolidated FDI policy circular, 2014."
"The government of Tamil Nadu reiterates its stand that all vessels below an OAL of 20 metres owned by fishermen should be given free access to the Indian EEZ whether they are registered under the State Marine Fishing Regulation Act or by other approved agencies," Panneerselvam said.
He urged Modi to reject the recommendations of the Expert Committee on Comprehensive Review of Deep Sea Fishing Policy and Guidelines under the chairpersonship of B. Meenakumari. The recommendations are detrimental to the welfare and livelihood of the fishermen, he added.
Panneerselvam said the central government should rescind the guidelines on deep sea fishing issued on November 12, 2014, and the public notice of November 28, 2014, allowing the foreign fishing vessels under LOP in the Indian EEZ in order to fully protect the interests of our fishermen.
Urging Modi that foreign fishing vessels should be allowed to fish in India's EEZ, he said foreign joint ventures should not be allowed to undertake deep sea fishing in the country's EEZ.
"Clearly define fishing vessels of length below 24 metres OAL as coastal fishing vessels and fishing vessels of length 24 metres OAL and above as deep sea fishing vessel," Panneerselvam said.