Licensed to Loot: Scandals and Violations within the Letter of Permit Scheme exposed

Scrap scheme and expedite effective management measures demand National Fishworkers Forum, Association of Indian Fisheries Industry and Greenpeace India

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Press release - March 13, 2012
March 13, 2012, Delhi: India’s lucrative commercial fish resources, including one of world’s last healthy tuna stocks, are being systematically exploited by fishing vessels of foreign origin as a result of the Letter of Permit scheme and in turn impacting livelihoods of millions and business interests of the Indian fishing sector, creating significant losses to the Indian exchequer by way of revenue and the destruction of marine habitats, reveals Greenpeace India’s report “Licensed to Loot” (1). Coinciding with the release of the report, the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), Association of Indian Fisheries Industry (AIFI) and Greenpeace India urged Minister Sharad Pawar to scrap the Letter of Permit (LoP) scheme and expedite an investigation on this issue.

Releasing the report R. K Patil, General Secretary, NFF said "The LoP scheme is a textbook example of where we have gone wrong with fisheries management in this country. The failure on the part of the Agriculture Ministry to curtail various violations and illegalities within the scheme has not only meant loss for the Indian government, but has also translated into greater impoverishment for millions of fisher folk in India."

The report, compiled on the basis of Greenpeace India's documentation out at sea (2), supported by information from sources within the Industry, including whistle blowers, demonstrates that the LoP is routinely exploited through

a) Dual registrations: Double-flagging, especially considering that dual registration is illegal in India;

b) Trans-shipments, which massively undermines India's revenue and earnings, considering that these vessels largely self-regulate the process and are not required to land their catch in India, as a result of which they significantly under-report their catch;

c) Fraudulent registrations: Obtaining a provisional registration in a third country and then surrendering it to obtain Indian registration while maintaining their original registration (3);

d) Lack of transparency accompanied by a failure of monitoring and surveillance (4)

A complaint has been filed with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the LoP scheme and the vessels operating under it, specifically in the following areas - inadequate monitoring of foreign crew considering the absence of valid employment visas, non-possession of radio licenses, failure of LoP operators to register with the MPEDA as exporters and the absence of Monitoring, control and surveillance measures and no tracking mechanism of these vessels on their departure from the Indian EEZ. The CBI is currently investigating into these issues with specific LoP operators.

Elaborating on NFFs position on the controversial LoP scheme, T. Peter, Secretary, said "Mismanagement of our seas has pushed our fishery resources to the brink of collapse as most of the fishermen experience a fall in catches with increased efforts. And adding insult to injury is the LoP scheme which basically implies that our own government is subsidising overfishing in our waters at the cost of its citizens."

Dr. Y.G.K Murthy, the President of Association of Indian Fisheries Industries (AIFI) who is currently also a petitioner in an ongoing case in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh on this matter, said " Neither the fishing sector nor does India benefit from this scheme. Estimates suggest that each of these foreign vessels earn up to INR 11 crores per season by way of catch value and in return pay India a one-time licensing fee of INR 10,000. Public records of the Government's revenue on catch from the scheme do not seem to exist. In effect, the Letter of Permit scheme is facilitating, intentionally or otherwise, the pillage of marine resources and India's income.

Critiquing the scheme, Vivekanandan, advisor NFF and South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS) said "Socially, economically and environmentally, India stands to lose as long as the Ministry of Agriculture continues with this scheme. LoP creates a framework for illegal fishing in our waters and the scheme needs to be scrapped right away. Moreover, considering that the Indian fishing communities and sector are capable of utilizing fish resources further out in the EEZ, with some support specifically in processing and exports, there is certainly no need to bring in either foreign vessels or technologies."

In response to a public campaign, over 200,000 Indians since January 2012 have called for the scheme to be scrapped (5). Locating this issue in a national and global context, Areeba Hamid, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace India concluded ""Quite clearly, the situation in India mirrors the situation of the oceans globally. As host nation to the CBD COP in 2012 to follow in October 2012, and a key player on global governance of the oceans, India stands to gain with proactive action, beginning by scrapping the LoP scheme and a cancellation of licenses issued so far."

For more information, contact

Areeba Hamid, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace India, +919900569456

V. Vivekanandan, Advisor – SIFFS & NFF and Secretary – FishMARC, +919847084840,

RK Patil, General Secretary, NFF, +91-9892833815,

T Peter, Secretary, NFF and President, KSMTF, +919447429243,

YGK Murthy, President, AIFI, +919866660445

Shuchita Mehta, Media Officer, Greenpeace India, +919560990606,

Notes to the Editor

(1) Refer to: http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/docs/Ship-tour-2012/07032012-LoP-Report.pdf

(2) Refer to: http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/Press/Busted-Greenpeace-Exposes-Letter-of-Permit-racket-in-Indian-EEZ/

(3) Refer to: http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/docs/Ship-tour-2012/07032012-LoP-Report.pdf

(4) The Fisheries Survey of India under an RTI, refused to share reports filed by foreign origin vessels. Greenpeace India has appealed this denial of information, considering that the resources are public commons, and the process is ongoing.

(5) Refer to: http://www.greenpeace.in/take-action/save-our-oceans/esperanza-in-india.php?p3=os

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