Will imposing a tax on the export of fish, and that too at the State’s borders as vehicles carrying the catch cross into other States, give Goans better quality fish? The Fisheries Minister appears to believe so, and has decided to impose a tax on the export of fish. His aim in doing so is to provide better quality fish, and a better variety to choose from, to the residents of the State. From available data, it may appear that an export tax could work to the benefit o fish eaters in the State. The state’s total catch in 2015 was 1,08,240 tonnes which dropped to 1,01,053 tonnes in 2016. In 2017 (January to June) the marine fish catch stands at 48,453 tonnes, but the exports went up. In 2015, Goa exported 34,814 tonnes from the Mormugao Port Trust, which increased to 38,209 in 2016. It is ironic that while the catch dropped, the exports rose, a fact that will boost the arguments in favour of a tax on export of fish from the State.
An amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Marine Fisheries Act has been mooted and the draft of the amendment will be sent to the Law Department for vetting and will then be taken up in the Assembly to be passed. While theoretically, this does sound possible, that the fishermen would prefer to sell the fish within the State, rather than pay a tax for the export, the efficacy of this export tax will be known only after it has been implemented. That, however, its implementation, could be delayed as the possibility of a number of bottlenecks cropping up before this actually is put into practice, protests from the fishing community being one of them, cannot be swept away. The first murmurs of protests have already been heard, though they are still very low in intensity at this time, the proposal being very fresh.
Protests from the fishing community aside, the legality of this export tax needs to be studied thoroughly before it is brought about. With the Goods and Services Tax being implemented from July this year, the State government immediately withdrew the entry tax at the State’s borders that it had introduced just a few years earlier, to increase revenue. A separate export tax, when the country is under the one nation one tax regime, could be questioned, and against this background, the imposition of an export tax on fish could hang in balance.
But, bringing better fish to the markets and the kitchens of Goans will require more than just a tax on the export of the fish. Neglected as an industry for long, it needs to be rejuvenated, but while doing so the sustainability of the industry and the availability of the catch in the sea has to also be taken into account. There is evidence, as pointed out above, that the fish catch is already depleting, and there have to be programmes to ensure that the fish is replenished in the sea.
Besides, 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 being one of them. Recently one of the issues of the industry was solved, with the Fisheries Minister taking credit for the ban on LED fishing imposed by the Centre. Likewise there are others that need to be sorted. Next week the fourth Fisheries Festival is planned in the State and this could be a perfect opportunity to discuss the future of the fishing industry in Goa and how to improve the economics of the trade.