In India, prior to 1998, a trawling ban was enforced only in the western State of Kerala.
When I was the Fisheries Commissioner of India (1994 – 2000) we extended the ban (not only for trawling but for all mechanized boats) to all the nine coastal States and four Union Territories (UTs) in 1997, which became effective from 1998.
That was the first time India started a uniform annual ban on marine fishing.
The ban was applicable to the east coast States/UTs from 30 April to 15 May and in the west coast States/UTs from 15 June to 31 July. The west coast State of Maharashtra extends the ban up to 14/15 August on account of a religious belief [Narikal (Coconut) Poornima].
In 2015, based on the recommendations of a National-level Committee (I was also a member of the said Committee), the Government of India extended the ban to sixty days. Some States have enforced sixty days but some have asked for a grace period of five years to extend the ban to sixty days. States like west Bengal have even asked for the ban to be extended to ninety days.
In India, both monetary and support in kind is provided to fishers during the ban period. For the monetary support, fishers also contribute to the Saving-cum-Relief scheme operated by the government, which is then made available to them during the ban period.
Under this Saving-cum-Relief scheme the Central Government, State/Provincial Governments, and the registered fishermen contribute an equal sum of money for ten months. The total amount thus collected is paid to the fishermen during the closed season when they cannot go out for fishing. In some States, relief in kind is also provided over and above the financial help.
It is important to note that, marine fisheries in this part of the world are set in a tropical environment. Most of the commercially important varieties have prolonged breeding period with a staggered laying of eggs. Therefore, it is very difficult to enforce bans in a staggered manner. My strategy in 1997-98 when we articulated the uniform ban with the coastal States/UTs was two-pronged; one to provide the marine ecosystem some respite from intense fishing and second to protect the lives of fishermen, as the seas (both Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal) are very rough during the period.
The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi, India has undertaken a couple of detailed scientific analyses to arrive at definite periods when the ban can be enforced, but find it difficult to pinpoint the periods. Further, the administrative costs of enforcing staggered bans will be enormous and difficult for a big country like India.
Yugraj Singh Yadava, Ph.D. is the Director of the Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-Governmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO) headquartered in Chennai city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He can be reached at [email protected]