Outside trawlers eating into local catch, boat owners tell min

 Illegal fishing activities in Goan waters by boats from other states for many years have severely affected the catch hauled in by local fishermen and a continuing trend may signal a crisis, local boat owners have alleged.

Representatives of Goan fishing boat owners' associations called on fisheries minister Avertano Furtado and narrated their grievances to him on Monday.

A row has erupted over allegedly illegal fishing activity by outside boats in Goa's territorial waters, including landing of the catch at local jetties.

The trigger was six trawlers seized by coastal police at Cortalim on Sunday. From Tamil Nadu, they were seized for unloading fish at the jetty.

Vessels are prohibited from fishing within 12 nautical miles in other states. A fisheries department official confirmed, "The 12 nautical mile zone is the state's territorial waters, outside boats can fish beyond it."

Edwin Carvalho, chairman of Vasco fishing boat owners marketing cooperative society, said, "Boats from outside cannot unload at jetties in other states." If there is a breakdown, they can come to the shore for repairs, but the fisheries department has to be notified about it.

The local boat owners, who are also aggrieved over the enforcement of a colour code for vessels, alleged that illegal activities were being carried out due to a nexus between the boat crew from outside and some locals.

The boat owners informed the minister that only Goan fishing boats have adhered to the requirement of following the colour code. "Around 95% of the boats have painted their vessels, but not the other vessels seen around," said Carvalho. He alleged, "The local boats are subjected to checks by coastal police."

The local boat owners have demanded better patrolling, as the TN trawlers evaded the eyes of security agencies and landed their catch at Cortalim. Pointing out that bull trawling (joint operations with thick nets by two trawlers) is under way, local boat owners claimed this method of fishing is destructive with the nets sweeping the sea bed clean.

The fisheries industry may face a crisis if (such) illegal fishing continues. "Fishing with fine nets and close to the sea bed also affects breeding grounds," said Menino Afonso of Mandovi fisheries marketing cooperative society. He also claimed that boats with higher horsepower of around 400 which have been banned still operate. "Using engines with higher horsepower gives the boats an advantage in fishing as they can drag the nets in quickly," said Afonso.

The local boat owners have threatened to come on the streets if authorities do not play a more proactive role in checking all these illegalities. The minister agreed to look into the issue and hold a meeting with officials of the coastal police, fisheries department and representatives from fishing boat owners' associations. [TOI]