Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

Purse Seine Fishing Gear: A Questionable Fishing Method


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SEZ, EEZ ,UNCLOS

Mains level: UNCLOS and Sustainable fishing practices


Central Idea

  • The Supreme Court of India has allowed purse seine fishing gear to be used for fishing beyond territorial waters (12 nautical miles) and within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (200 nautical miles) of Tamil Nadu, subject to certain restrictions. However, the interim order is primarily concerned with regulating fishing through administrative and transparency measures rather than addressing conservation measures and obligations mandated by the UNCLOS. The use of purse seine fishing gear poses a threat to traditional fishermen and endangers the livelihoods of these fishermen.

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What is Seine fishing gear?

  • Seine fishing gear is a type of fishing equipment used to catch fish in large quantities.
  • It consists of a long net that is suspended vertically in the water with the help of floats and weights. The net is then hauled through the water by two boats, which are called seine boats. The boats move towards each other, pulling the net between them and trapping fish in the process.
  • Seine fishing can be done in various ways, including purse seining, beach seining, and boat seining, among others.
  • The type of seine fishing gear used depends on the size of the fish being targeted and the location of the fishing activity.

About United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

  • Law of the Sea treaty: UNCLOS is sometimes referred to as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty. It came into operation and became effective from 16th November 1982.
  • Defines rights and responsibilities with respect to oceans: It defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
  • It has created three new institutions on the international scene: International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, 2. International Seabed Authority, 3. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf


Conservation and conventions

  • Sovereign rights of coastal states: Under Articles 56.1(a) and 56.1(b)(iii) of UNCLOS, coastal states have sovereign rights to ensure that the living and non-living resources of the EEZ are used, conserved and managed, and not subject to overexploitation.
  • Coastal states discretion: Access to the zone by foreign fleets is also solely within the coastal state’s discretion and subject to its laws and regulations.
  • Total allowable catch in EEZ: In order to prevent overexploitation, coastal States must determine the total allowable catch (TAC) in the EEZ (Articles 61(1) and (2) of UNCLOS) in light of the best scientific evidence available.
  • Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) 1993: The crux of the SBT is TAC and distribution of allocations among the parties to the SBT, which are very relevant from the angle of conservation of general fishery.

Did you know?

  • The rise in occurrence of jellyfish indicates rising ocean water temperature.
  • Presence of jellyfish in the area indicates the reduction in the fish population.


What are the concerns over the move?

  • Regulation is not sufficient: Merely restricting the purse seiner to fish on two days Monday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (in the Court order) is not sufficient without regulating the fishing methods used.
  • Insufficient catch for traditional fishermen: International legal efforts are gradually moving in the direction of abandoning the use of large-scale pelagic nets. The huge size of the purse seine nets (2,000 metres in length and 200 m in depth) allows maximum catch for the purse seiners, in turn leaving behind insufficient catch for traditional fishermen.
  • Efforts under TAC might face scientific uncertainty: TAC and the catch quotas are aimed at putting sustainable use into practice among fishermen and maintaining maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The efforts to implement TAC and catch quota might face scientific uncertainty relating to safe limits to ensure MSY.

Way ahead

  • The Court’s final judgment needs to look into non-selective fishing methods by purse seiners resulting in the by-catch of other marine living species (which could include, many a times, endangered species) a potential ground for trade embargo.
  • The top court should seek guidance from the obligations arising from the multilateral and regional conventions which are meant to bring in sustainable fishing practices over a certain period of time, thereby allowing a common resource such as fish to be naturally replenished.


  • Despite the best conservation measures and regulation of fishing methods adopted by the authorities, it will be a challenge in dealing with the limitless character of the seas which renders a common resource such as fish available for exploitation by all. The theory of Garrett Hardin, ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, which says ‘Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all’ should convince all “fishermen, especially the purse seiners of Tamil Nadu, that they must cooperate in complying with conservation measures.

Mains question

Q. The Supreme Court of India has allowed purse seine fishing gear to be used for fishing beyond territorial waters. In this backdrop Discuss what is purse seine fishing gear its advantages and the concerns.

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