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The Fisheries and Aquaculture Industry is one of the key employing Industries in India, providing livelihood to nearly 20 million fishers. This Industry has seen an immense increase in production from 102.51 lakh metric tonnes in 2014-15 to 137.58 lakh metric tonnes in the year 2018-19. This boom in production incidentally leads to India becoming one among the top 4 countries exporting fish. This Industry, thus, garnered more attention as it slowly took up a noticeable share of India’s Exports.
The Finance Minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitaraman, while presenting the Union budget 2019-20, announced a plan to regulate the Fishing Industry in India. In fulfillment of the same, it had created a Ministry for Fishing, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying from a prior ministry. A few days ago, Mrs. Sitaraman has announced a new scheme called the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) to promote processing in the fishery sector and had allocated Rs.20,050 Crores calling it a scheme to bring about ‘Blue Revolution through sustainable and responsible development in the fisheries sector in India’. The Scheme shall be implemented in five years from FY 2020-21 – 2024-25 through all States/Union Territories.
What is this Scheme?
Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal husbandry, and Dairying, Mr. Giriraj Singh, has through a Press Conference on 26.05.2020 released details of the framework of the scheme.
- This is an umbrella scheme with two components namely the Central Sector Scheme (CS) and Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS). CSS is further segregated into Beneficiary and Non- Beneficiary Oriented sub-components or activities under three broad heads:
- Enhancement of Production and Productivity
- Infrastructure and Post-Harvest Management
- Fisheries Management and Regulatory Framework.
Funding Pattern: Out of the total approved amount of Rs. 20,050 crores, the Central share accounts to Rs.9,407 crores; State Share accounts to Rs.4,880 crores; and the Beneficiary share account to Rs.5,763 crores.
- Central Sector Scheme (CS): the entire project/unit cost is borne by the central government, i.e., 100% central funding.
- Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS):
- Non- Beneficiary Oriented: sub-components or activities under CSS will be shared by the Centre and the State in the following ratios: the North Eastern States and Himalayan Areas: 90% Centre, 10% State; Other states: 60% Central Share, and 40% State Share. Union Territories: 100% Central share.
- Beneficiary Oriented (i.e., Individual/Group activities): The Government Financial Assistance for this will be limited to 40% overall in General Category and 60% overall for SC/ST/Women. In that overall share, the further division of shares between the center and the state shall be done based on areas as done for Non-Beneficiary Oriented.
- Under this scheme, the beneficiary will have to contribute an amount of Rs. 1,500 annually.
- During the Fish ban/lean period i.e., which spans around 3 months every monsoon, assistance shall be provided to fishermen up to nearly an amount of Rs.4500/- per year, disbursed in amounts of Rs. 1,500 every month during the fish ban/lean period.
- The PMMSY focuses on the development of fisheries in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Islands, North East, and other aspirational districts.
- The Scheme talks of investment in modern fishing villages, construction of fishing harbors and landing sectors, urban marketing infrastructure to deliver good quality and affordable fish.
- The beneficiaries under this scheme are also eligible for modern fishing vessels for deep-sea fishing; the Ministry has said that the criteria for this eligibility shall be released soon.
- A new but much-needed reform the PMMSY discusses is for the provision of insurance to fishing vessels and support for the safety of fishers at sea. During a prior Press release, BK Mishra, Managing Director of National fishers Cooperative said, “The social security, accidental insurance of fishers should be increased from Rs. 2 Lakhs to Rs. 5 Lakhs”.
- Special focus on Coldwater fisheries development and expansion of aquaculture in brackish waters and saline areas. Promotion of high-value species, establishing a national network of Brood Banks for all commercially important species, Genetic improvement and establishing Nucleus Breeding Center for self-reliance in Shrimp Broodstock, organic aquaculture promotion and certification, good aquaculture practices, end to end traceability from ‘catch to consumer’, use of BlockChain Technology, Global Standards and Certification, Accreditation of Brood banks, Hatcheries, Farms, residues issues and aquatic health management supported by a modern laboratory network.
- Mari Culture, Seaweed Cultivation, and Ornamental Fisheries which are known to generate high employment are heavily focussed on.
Aims and objectives of PMMSY
- To address critical gaps between Fish Production and Productivity, Post-Harvest Infrastructure and Management, Modernization and strengthening of value chain.
- Establishing robust fishery management framework and fishers welfare.
- Addressing key issues like low productivity in Inland Aquaculture, diseases, and sustainability of marine fisheries.
- It aims at achieving a target production output of 220 lakh Metric Tonnes by the end of 2024-25.
- It is expected to generate nearly 55 lakh direct and indirect employment.
Relevant legal provisions
Fisheries fall under one of the prime priorities in the State List as per the Constitution of India. This being the case, the laws that apply to fish and fisheries heavily vary from one maritime state to another. This led to the formation of a grey area since there was no uniformity of laws throughout the country. The fishing industry had seen an increased production with the use of motorized boats, improved techniques, etc. The state governments started regulating this sector, like extending the nationwide fish ban during monsoons, regulating gear to reduce indiscriminate fishing, banning bull trawling, etc. Some southern states have also formulated rules on the legal size of fish to reduce the catch of juveniles before they can spawn and replenish the population.
The Hindu Businessline reported in February 2020, that the Government announced it was considering the formulation of a federal Fishing law for sustainable development and management of fisheries in the economic zone. Territorial waters, which are up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline, come under the jurisdiction of the coastal States and Union Territories. Waters from 12 to 200 nautical miles fall under EEZ.
Following the recommendation of the National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2017, the government is “considering a uniform fishing law for sustainable development and management of fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone of India,” Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Giriraj Singh said.
This Scheme is notably India’s first major step in improving the fisheries sector. Although, there have been other similar schemes, none could boast such massive funding. Albeit, having a coastline spanning roughly 7,000 km the fishing industry in India, has by and large been left to its own devices with little to no help from the government. The proposal of Insurance, deep-sea fishing vessels, constructions of harbors, etc under this scheme is a welcome move and would serve towards improving India’s long-term goal of becoming a developed nation that concentrates on all sectors and focuses on the well-being of its citizens.
The incentives provided by the PMMSY at the outset are very promising. Its goal of producing 220 Lakh Metric Tonnes, on one-hand and excitingly prosperous prospect, on the other, also indicates at probable overfishing and loss of habitat in Areas. Overfishing was one of the main reasons for the Sardine Crash which happened in Kerala. Scientists had found that the fishers had constantly exceeded the sustainable yield from 2010 to 2013 and were catching an increased number of juvenile fish. This leads the Kerala Government to ban the fishing of juvenile sardines in 2015. But in 2018, Amanda Vincent, a professor at the University of British Columbia in an interview with Mongabay called the current fishing techniques as ‘Annihilation Trawling’. She had coined this word to explain the phenomenon where bull trawling was taking place, not for targeted species of fish, but to indiscriminately pilfer any form of life living underwater so that it could be transformed into animal fodder, chicken feed, etc. This would effectively destroy the local ecosystem. When investigated, it was discovered that the local authorities though aware of this situation let them slide.
The aim of PMMSY to achieve sustainable fishing in the light of the existing legal regime seems over-ambitious without the backing of a National Fishing Legislation or proper mechanisms to observe these regulations.
The PMMSY promises generation of employment and improvement of fishing infrastructure in India, though ambitious, if successful would drastically change the fishing industry in India. The success of which shall ultimately depend on the enacting of a uniform National Fisheries Legislation and its enforcement authorities, which would in turn help in the implementation of the scheme. A plan without sufficient legal safeguards would equal a body without a heart.
Author: Madhuri Bhadriraju from Pendekanti Law College, Osmania University, Hyderabad.
Editor: Yashika Gupta from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.