In the net

On August 13, at the Colaba beach in Mumbai, the minister of state for food processing Dilip Kumar Ray offered coconut water to the fisherfolk's leader, Thomas Kocherry (seen on left) to break his seven-day fast against deep-sea fishing joint ventures (jvs). The minister assured in writing that no new licences and no renewals for fishing will be given to jvs. Kocherry expressed his gratitude, "We have moved one step forward." Fisherfolk who had been on strike all over the country since August 7 and had blocked commercial ports for a day, called off their protest.

Ray gave a month's time for the implementation of the review report by former food processing secretary P Murari, which seeks to end jvs and prevents the entry of large vessels in ocean depth zones upto 100-150 m.The government's initial six-month deadline for the implementation of the Murari committee recommendations had lapsed the day before the strike. Now the ball is in the court of the ministry of food processing industry (mofpi) which will refer the matter to the cabinet committee on economic affairs (ccea). Says Kocherry, sceptical of bureaucratic bottlenecks, "We are keeping the pressure on."

There is an active and potential deep sea fishing (dsf) fleet involving giant vessels, 61 deep sea jv vessels - 18 of them in operation; 57 licensed vessels on lease - 10 of them in operation in Indian waters. Fisheries scientists and sociologists stress that the future of Indian fisheries will now depend on diversification of the present fleet and restricted catch. That means monitored fishing, mesh size restrictions in fishing nets, and quotas fixed for each species, as done in the North Sea and elsewhere to curb the onslaught of giant dsf vessels. It could be tough going. For the time being, the fisher folk have agreed to give the government another chance.

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