What the fish

A draft policy is now threatening India’s small-scale fishers. Can they swim out of the trap? 

Published 7 months ago on Jul 31, 2020 1 minute Read

Out on the uneasy blue waters, when a storm is fast approaching, fishermen can only hope to get weather updates at the nick of time to get back to safety. But back on the shore, awaits a rude shock for them in the form of National Fisheries Policy 2020. The draft that aims to double their incomes has failed to include voices from fishers and the fishing communities, say experts.

According to the policy, the sector contributed around Rs.1.75 trillion to the GDP during FY17–18. It accounts for about 6.58% of agricultural GDP and provides livelihood to over 16 million fishers and fish farmers at the primary level. Yet, the policy is mainly focused on exports and production, which could eventually lead to small scale fishers losing their rights to access coastal commons, state reports.

For instance, the policy mentions deep-sea fishing for “high-value resources” such as tuna and oceanic squids. Apart from posing a threat to the environment, researchers fear that this promotes capital- and technology-intensive fishing, which small scale fishers do not have access to. Additionally, in a webinar organised by National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), convener of Coastal Action Network, Jesu Rethinam, said that the women and their contribution to the sector were ‘invisible’ in the draft policy. V Vivekanandan, advisor, South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies, in the same webinar, pointed out that the unclear draft was simply ‘repackaged’ with the word ‘modern’ thrown around multiple times.

Currently, the draft is up on the website of the National Fisheries Development Board inviting comments from stakeholders. According to the NFF, it is unfortunate that the government, without translating the policy into regional languages, has gone ahead with the process of finalising it.

Looks like India’s Blue Revolution is far from materialising amid this chaos, with hardly anything coming to the small fishers’ pockets from the Rs.200 billion-package announced for the sector in May.