Q: Recently, St Andre MLA Fransico Silveria’s trawler was caught carrying out illegal fishing using LED lights. How are the traditional fishermen looking at it, especially, when the lawmaker himself was found breaking the law?
We are very shocked that the BJP MLA who is a strong voice for the traditional fishermen of St Andre constituency, and who recently, in October, had a joint meeting with Fisheries Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues and Revenue Minister Jennifer Monserrate seeking action against illegal and destructive methods of fishing in the river Zuari, indulged in illegal LED light fishing, which was banned first in Goan waters by the state government and subsequently in the exclusive economic zone that is 12 nautical miles beyond the territorial waters by the central government.
Q: What could be the reasons for the government’s failure in implementing the ban on bull trawling and fishing using LED lights?
The fisheries department has been indifferent to our cause. Last year, several trawlers were caught in the Malvan area for violating the norms. We had asked the state fisheries department to act and suspend their licenses, but the department turned a blind eye towards the illegalities. The ecological balance of the marine resources is being harmed, and it is quite evident as there is a drop of 70 per cent in fish catch in the last few years. Most of the local fishermen are returning empty-handed with their fishing canoes, and they are on the verge of shutting down their traditional business, and it is the same story with the traditional fishermen.
Q: Do you feel that the illegalities are happening with the blessings of the department officials and the politicians holding the top positions in the government?
Absolutely, there is a clear nexus between the certain officials of fisheries department and the politicians even from the South Goa. The government has taken over the operations of the Cutbona jetty last year following directions from the High Court but still all the boats with LED lights are operating right under the nose of the fisheries department. Adding to it the general secretary of All Goa Purse-Seiners Boat Owners’ Association Sebastiao Cardozo has made a public statement that fish caught last year was in abundance due to LED light fishing. This statement is self-explanatory that illegal fishing is being carried out by a section of the local fishermen.
Q: What action do you want the state authorities to take against those involved in illegal fishing?
The fisheries department should immediately suspend the licences of all the trawlers involved in the illegal use of LED lights and bull trawling. Such fishermen should surrender all the illegal gears to the fisheries department as they are well aware of the ill effect of destructive gears and destruction done to our marine resource. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who is the head of the state, should act against them. Sawant should uphold the laws and should not protect or shield any politicians in the ruling or opposition camp engaged in the illegal fishing.