ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Taming the Fishing Blues

Reforming the Marine Fishery Regulatory Regime in India

Against the backdrop of a dwindling marine fisheries resource base, declining catch rates, and escalating conflicts about securing rights over oceanic resources, this paper emphasises the need to relook at the marine fisheries regulatory regime in the country with a view to better align it to address outstanding issues and emerging challenges. It proposes a number of interventions that include revisiting the marine fisheries regulatory acts, expanding regulation to areas beyond territorial waters, carrying out commensurate institutional reforms, harnessing technological advancements, facilitating co-governance along with relevant stakeholders, operationalising the fao Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and garnering multilateral cooperation.

The authors are grateful to A Gopalakrishnan, Director, and R Narayanakumar, Head, Socio-economics Division, CMFRI, for their guidance and support in preparing this article. The constructive comments and suggestions provided by the anonymous referee are also gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed are personal.

Marine fisheries, like any other common property resources, are amenable to over-exploitation. The myopic behaviour of individual fishermen to maximise profits through the continual intensification of fishing has been one of the classic cases that finds mention in Garrett Hardin’s thesis of “the tragedy of the commons” (1968). The subsequent literature generated in this realm strongly supports the high degree of susceptibility of open access fisheries to human exploitation and the resultant collapse of overexploited stocks of fish species. A recent analysis of the dynamics of collapse in world fisheries has shown that nearly one in four fisheries have collapsed during the period 1950–2000, recurring at regular intervals (Mullon et al 2005). Pauli et al (2002) argued that fisheries historically have tended to be non-sustainable, and that fishing has induced serial depletions, long masked by improved technology, geographic expansion, and exploitation of previously spurned species lower down in the food web. Recent research findings also show that over-exploitation not only resulted in severe depletion, but also to the near extinction of some commercially important, high-value fish species that are slow to mature, have limited geographic range, and/or have sporadic recruitment (Casey and Myers 1998; Sadovy 2001).

For the above reasons, and given the scale of economic activities and livelihoods associated with oceanic resources, the governance and management of capture fisheries operations has been the subject of intense international discourse over the past several decades. Consequently, international organisations, regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs), and maritime countries have put in place elaborate sets of regulations to seek to check unsustainable fishing practices, based on long-term experience and multilateral negotiations. In international parlance, violations of the above regulations have come to be known as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities. Generally, the regulations within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of countries are governed by national laws of the respective countries and those in the high seas are governed by the concerned RFMOs or international agreements/treaties on specific issues. Nevertheless, for the global fisheries regulatory regime, it has not been smooth sailing, in general, as far as detections and compliance is concerned. Marine fisheries law enforcement and compliance therefore happens to be one of the most intensely studied subjects, with experts representing diverse fields such as economics, law, sociology, and psychology having looked for, and continuing to explore, perspectives pertaining to their fields of specialisation.

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Updated On : 13th Nov, 2017
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