HAVING failed the ramponkars (traditional fishermen) umpteen times on one pretext or the other during the past years, the fisheries department has given them yet another assurance to crack down on illegal fishing in the River Zuari. The state police and even the coastal police have been indifferent to the ramponkars’ complaints. Why are the fisheries department and the police on acting against illegal fishing? The ramponkars informed the fisheries department and police of at least 15 violations in January this year by trawler owners who used as many as 152 vessels to catch fish in illegal way. The fisheries department failed to act on the excuse that its single boat had broken down. From the slow and cold response of the fisheries department and the police it appears that the government is not serious about stopping violations of the rules and regulations by certain trawler owners. If the fisheries department boat was not in a working condition it should have sought the help of the marine police and Coast Guard to act against illegal fishing. The ramponkars have alleged that the officials concerned do not respond whenever they try to report incidents of illegal fishing in the River Zuari, let alone take action against them. The indifference of government officials can be seen from the fact that they say it was not possible for them to take every complaint call. No wonder, not one of the 152 vessels allegedly involved in illegal fishing was caught.
The ramponkars even sought the help of Fisheries Minister Vinod Palyekar in dealing with illegal fishing which is usually done by night in the River Zuari. The assurances by the minister and officers to act against those involved in illegal fishing failed to materialise. The government is obviously showing a lack of interest in the plight of the traditional fishermen; in other words, indirectly it is helping trawler owners get away with illegal catches and damages they do to the marine life. The government indifference would harm ecological balance and reduce marine resources which could deprive the ramponkars of their livelihood, which depends on catch of fish using traditional method.
The officials of the fisheries department are authorised under the Goa, Daman and Diu Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1980 to initiate action against persons found engaged in illegal fishing. Police officers, block development officers (BDOs) and mamlatdars are also authorized to act those those involved in illegal fishing but none of the officials have thought it their duty to exercise their powers to curb the illegalities. Perhaps every official must be thinking that others will act; this attitude has helped illegal fishing grow to alarming proportions. It is not that the trawlers making illegal catch are fishing in the deep sea where it is difficult to reach. The ramponkars can notice the trawlers, so they are able to call the fisheries department and the police to lodge a complaint. An action against a trawler engaged in illegal fishing does not require any elaborate preparation or joint action by various agencies. If the authorities act promptly on receiving a complaint, the culprits can be caught and their catch seized.
The ramponkars have been pleading there has been a substantial drop in fish catch owing to illegal fishing over the years. Illegal fishing does not allow regeneration of the marine resources as much is taken out and the marine systems are disturbed, causing further damage and reduction in marine resources. Every time the issue of illegal fishing is raised the government promises action without actually taking any. The fisheries department wants to amend the Goa, Daman and Diu Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1980 and the Goa, Daman and Diu Marine Fishing Regulations, 1981, which have not been revised since 1982, to make the law against illegal fishing more deterrent. The amendment must be made the soonest possible by the government to make penalties severe. However, the fisheries department and the police must not use the delay in the amendment to explain their inaction and indifference. They must enforce the laws as they obtain now. If there is strong enforcement of the existing rules and regulations those engaged in illegal fishing would be afraid to indulge in violations. The official agencies must first deserve, then desire. They should be given help with more stringent laws if they are able to enforce the existing laws. Until the amendment happens, those doing illegal fishing must be caught and penalized first under the