This is one statement of the Fisheries Minister that is not going to please the fishing community in the State. it also expose the lackadaisical attitude of the government in equipping itself.
With just days to go before the annual monsoon fishing ban comes into force, the Fisheries Minister has admitted that the department is not fully equipped to crackdown on violators. Owners of the approximately 1500 trawlers that will drop anchor for two months, have already raised questions on this statement.
The annual fishing ban has been enforced in the State since 1981 and is effective from June 1 to July 31. For a brief period the ban had been extended up to August 15, but this extension was later withdrawn, and the period maintained at 61 days. The ban is ostensibly to allow the fish in the sea to spawn, and has also been effective in keeping the fishermen safe from venturing out in the rough monsoon seas. It bars trawling, though it allows motorised canoes to go out to the sea.
It’s going to be almost four decades since the ban has been on, and the government has had ample time to equip itself to deal with violations. So when the minister admits that they are not equipped to deal with it, there arises the question of how has the ban been implemented in the past years? Has there been and is there now an effective mechanism to keep in check the various violations?
It is interesting that the Fisheries Minister not only admits that the boats his department has are not able to tow fishing boats that are found to be violating the ban but that the crew member too has retired. The minister has gone ahead and made a public appeal seeking that anybody who knows of a person able to man the boat may suggest a replacement. Recruitment in government departments follows certain procedures, and such statements from Ministers are not expected. Besides, if the crew member retired, the post could have been filled, so that the absence of a single person would not jeopardize the department’s work.
The fishing community is understandably upset by this and has warned that if the violations during the fishing ban are not stopped, then they too would take their boats and go fishing during the ban this monsoon. Before this happens, the government has to assure the fishing community in the State that it will ensure there are no violations of the ban.
Another question that arises from the Fisheries Minister’s statement whether the Fisheries Department, with its lack of equipment, has been able to effectively stop bull trawling and LED fishing that has been banned by the Centre? Recall the fact that it was the State Fisheries Minister who took credit for the ban on LED fishing across the country. It is one thing to have a ban or a rule or a law, but this can show positive results only if the implementation is effective. The Department needs to answer quite a few questions.
There are a large number of issues that the fishing community in Goa has been regularly bringing up, the poor condition of the facilities at the fishing jetties is one of them that those using the government-operated jetties bring up. Likewise there are others that need to be sorted, and quite important is the depleting fish catch, which during the demand for a ban on LED fishing the fishing community had foreseen the possibility of a ‘fish famine’ in the State. This was never seriously addressed, and any violations of the monsoon ban on fishing will only result in a further loss of the marine resources. Both issues, therefore, need to be very seriously addressed by the government.