Deep-sea fishing.

Deep-sea fishing.

Kerala’s deep sea fishing project against Biodiversity Act: Expert

Congress seeks judicial probe into the 'cancelled' deep sea project

Agency Report | Thiruvananthapuram | 23 February, 2021 | 11:00 PM

The MoU signed between the Kerala government's KSIDC and a private company EMCC International India (Pvt. Ltd.) for the promotion and up-gradation of the deep sea fishing industry in the state with an investment of Rs 5,000 crore is against the Indian Biodiversity Act of 2002 enacted by Parliament and implemented in the country.

Oommen V. Oommen, a former chairman of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, said the Act has been implemented in Kerala through rules framed in 2008 by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board constituted in 2005.

“The present agreement envisages the over-exploitation of our natural bioresources against the interest of biodiversity conservation. The agreement is also against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be achieved by 2030. Goal 14 of the SDG is intended to conserve and sustainably use seas and marine resources for sustainable development. India is also a signatory to the UN SDGs. It further envisages by 2025, prevents and reduce pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, marine debris and nutrient pollution,” said Oommen.

For the past week, this project of the Pinarayi Vijayan government has come under heavy criticism from the opposition. The stakeholders in the sector have called for a ‘coastal hartal’ on Saturday as a protest.

On Tuesday, the Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala demanded a judicial probe into the proposed project, which the Vijayan government says it has cancelled and a probe by a senior bureaucrat has been announced.

Oommen also pointed out that the vision of the National Fisheries Policy (NFP) is to develop an ecologically healthy, economically valuable and socially inclusive fisheries sector that contributes to economic prosperity.

“The Kerala govt is also committed to implementing the NFP and State Fisheries Policy encompassing responsible and regulated use of bio-resources in an environment-friendly manner. Chapter II of the Fisheries Policy mentions not allowing corporates (both Indian and foreign) to do deep-sea trawling and should bring it to the attention of the Centre. It also mentions regulating mechanized trawling in coastal areas to ensure that traditional fishermen are able to sustain their livelihood,” added Oommen.

Meanwhile, continuing his tirade against the now cancelled deep-sea fishing project in Kerala, the Congress’ Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Tuesday demanded a judicial probe into the entire sequence of events which began by first tweaking the fisheries policy and then signing of MoU with the US-headquartered EMCC which has an Indian partner.

Following the controversy, on Monday the Pinarayi Vijayan government decided to cancel the MoU and announced a probe by senior bureaucrat T.K. Jose.

Speaking to the media here, Chennithala said right from the time he brought this out, it was only “lies” that were being spoken, first by State Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty, then by State Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan and then Chief Minister Vijayan who despite meeting these company officials twice, is yet to say anything.

“The discussions to this project first began in 2018 with Mercykutty having a discussion with the company when she went on a visit to the US. Then the first move to this came when the state fisheries policy was tweaked and included was a clause that deep sea fishing will be promoted and the traditional fishermen would be used for it. This was done purposely and then came two meetings which Vijayan took part with these company officials, which he is yet to admit. Both Mercykutty and Jayarajan were caught on the wrong foot after they first denied meeting anyone and then it was proved wrong,” said Chennithala.

“This project, had we not found out, would have finished off the fisheries sector and this is nothing but big cheating of the hapless fisherfolk. We will provide our full support to the coastal ‘hartal’ called by various organisations on Saturday against this dubious project. We will also meet the fisherfolk and explain to them about this project,” added Chennithala.

“The present probe is being done by a bureaucrat T.K. Jose. It makes no sense as two state ministers and the Chief Minister are the prime culprits and hence only a judicial probe will reveal everything,” said Chennithala.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi who is presently in the state will also meet the fisherfolk at Kollam.

With the Assembly polls round the corner and the fishing community seen as a huge vote bank, which of late has been more aligned to the Left, the Congress expects to exploit this deep-sea fishing project in its campaign, which it expects will be able to swing this huge vote back to its advantage. (IANS)