By Ramesh Bhan
New Delhi, Dec 1 : The centre will empower coastal states and Union Territories through delegation of powers to grant marine fishing licenses for fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and high seas.
Official sources said here on Tuesday that fisheries governance will be improved to facilitate coordination among states/Union Territories, national agencies and other stake holders through the Marine Fisheries (Regulation and Management) Bill, 2019, (MFRM Bill) which nationalizes India’s EEZ and prohibits fishing by foreign fishing vessels. .
‘’The comprehensive management and regulation of fisheries resources in the EEZ will be ensured with a national law…The Bill prohibits fishing by foreign fishing vessels, thus nationalizing the EEZ which extends outwards to 200 nautical miles from the baseline,’’ the sources said.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, the sea and resources in the water and seabed are classified into internal waters (IW), Territorial Sea (TS) and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). India has obligations to frame laws under the UNCLOS 1982 and WTO agreements. India has ratified the UNCLOS in 1995.
While the IW and TS come under concerned states jurisdiction, TS up to the EEZ are in the Union list and no central government has ever framed laws covering the entire EEZ. Consequently, Indian fishermen need a permit to fish in the EEZ outside the TS and this permit will only be issued if the vessel is registered under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.
Small fishermen oppose the Bill saying their freedom to operate outside the TS will be severely hampered and only bigger fishing vessels can fish outside the TS and in the EEZ.
The sources said the legislation for regulation and management will be updated to cater to the needs of the sector and also meet the applicable international standards and norms. ‘’New legislations wherever required will be put in place.’’