Draft Marine Fisheries Bill needs major revision, says Greenpeace

Press release - January 28, 2010

Following the first consultation meeting, on the Marine Fisheries (Regulation and Management) Bill,  organised by the Ministry of Agriculture today, Greenpeace reiterated the need for a substantial revision of the draft Marine Fisheries (Regulation and Management) bill. Considering the far-reaching implications of the bill, Greenpeace also stressed the need for multiple consultations to be organised by the Ministry of Agriculture across the country, ensuring that the key stakeholders - fisher communities and their associations, and environmental groups and researchers, are provided with a fair chance to input into the draft bill.

"The need for such a bill is clear, as India needs an instrument to regulate, manage and conserve fishery resources in its EEZ. However, the current draft falls short on several counts, fulfilling neither its regulation / management mandate, nor factoring in the livelihoods and aspirations of India's 3 million marine fishing community" said Sanjiv Gopal, Oceans Campaign Manager, Greenpeace India. "Further, it is vital that the regulation and management of fishing in the Indian EEZ is harmonized with national conservation laws and international laws to which India is party. The precautionary and ecosystem approach should be employed when decisions are taken on all marine resource extraction, including fisheries." he further added.

While the draft bill was circulated to State Governments in 2009, today's consultation was the first attempt to seek the inputs of non-governmental stakeholders - fisher communities, researchers and environmental groups. So far, the state Government and politicians across party lines in Tamilnadu have strongly opposed the bill, and many of the other coastal states are expected to follow suit. It is anticipated that the draft bill is scheduled to be tabled in the next session of the Parliament.

In its submission to the Ministry, Greenpeace has highlighted the acute need for the incorporation of the following areas in the Bill:

1.    The need for a Preamble to specify the rationale and guiding principles of the proposed legislation.

2.    The need for an increased focus on equity - It is essential that the Bill ensure preferential access of the EEZ to the Indian fishing community, many of whom already rely on parts of the EEZ. The first lien on the fisheries resources in the Indian EEZ should be for Indian fishers and wholly Indian owned and operated fishing vessels.

3.    The need for an increased focus on sustainability - Given that economic benefits of fisheries exploitation will accrue only as long as the resource itself is in a healthy condition, it is important that the bill addresses the issue of sustainability of India's marine fisheries. This could be through a variety of instruments, including seasonal fishing restrictions, protection of breeding and spawning grounds of over-exploited fish species, setting the total allowable catches legally at or below scientifically recommended levels, restrictions on types of gear and provision for no-take areas in the EEZ.

4.    Enforcement mechanisms need to be better defined and consistent with social realities.

In conclusion, Gopal said "On the whole, the Bill needs significant improvement in certain areas to make it friendly to India's small scale fishing community, strengthen provisions consistent with good fisheries conservation and reinforce the principles of equity and sustainability. It would also need to be informed by examples of management and decision making from other parts of the world, to incorporate 'best practices' and avoid mistakes experienced elsewhere. A failure to do so could not only impact marine ecosystems and result in collapse of fish stocks as has happened with many developed countries, but also have a dramatic and negative impact on livelihood and food security for millions across India's coastline".

For further information, contact

Sanjiv Gopal, Campaign Manager – Oceans, Greenpeace India, +91-98455 35416,

Dr. Seema Javed, Sr. Media Officer, Greenpeace India, +91-99100 59765,