From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Marine fisheries bill
A Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management (MFRM) Bill 2019 is in the public domain for discussion.
- Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, India has obligations to frame laws.
- The annual fishery potential of the country’s EEZ is about 5 million tonnes.
- Under UNCLOS, the sea and resources in the water and the seabed are classified into three zones — the internal waters (IW), the territorial sea (TS) and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
- The IW is on the landward side of the baseline including gulfs and small bays. Coastal states treat IW like land.
- TS extends outwards to 12 nautical miles from the baseline — coastal nations enjoy sovereignty over airspace, sea, seabed, and subsoil and all living and non-living resources therein.
- EEZ extends outwards to 200 nautical miles from the baseline. Coastal nations have sovereign rights for exploration, exploiting, conserving and managing all the natural resources therein.
- Since fisheries is a state subject, fishing in the IW and TS come within the purview of the states concerned.
- Other activities in the TS and activities, including fishing beyond the TS up to the limit of the EEZ, are in the Union list.
- No Central government, so far, has framed laws covering the entire EEZ.
- The Bill attempts to make up for this.
- The Bill is also a response to discussions on fisheries’ subsidies at the WTO since the Doha Round of 2001.
- India has been defending the rights of developing nations for special and differential treatment.
- Developed countries contend that nations without laws to manage fisheries in their respective EEZs are not serious about unregulated fishing.
- MFRM Bill is India’s response to such sentiments.
Provisions – analysis
- The Bill prohibits fishing by foreign fishing vessels, thus nationalising our EEZ.
- Bigger vessels registered and licensed under state departments will need a permit to fish. This is a welcome measure to manage the fishing sector.
- The Bill respects the jurisdiction of our coastal states over the TS.
- It proposes social security for fish workers and calls for the protection of life at sea during severe weather events.
- An Indian fishing vessel that wants to fish in the EEZ, outside the TS, must obtain a permit. This requirement has been contested by small-scale operators.
- There is a faulty assumption that only large-scale vessels fish outside the TS. Thousands of small-scale fishing crafts regularly venture into such areas.
- It is not congruent with important regional fishery agreements. It is incomplete compared to the regulations in other coastal nations.
- Exemption clauses to safeguard the livelihoods of small scale fishermen should be incorporated in the Bill.
- State governments, fisher associations and the fishing industry representatives should argue for greater “cooperative federalism”.
- Cooperative governance between them over different territories (IW, TS, and EEZ) is key to the sustainable management of marine fisheries.
- Fisheries should now ideally go into the Concurrent List.
- Small-scale fish workers should demand to make the entire IW and TS completely free of trawling using the FAO/UN Small-Scale Fisheries.
The Doha Development Round or Doha Development Agenda is the trade-negotiation round of WTO which commenced in 2001. Its objective was to lower trade barriers around the world and facilitate increased global trade.