CAG raps Guj over lacunae in regulation of fishing activities

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has rapped the Gujarat government for not taking adequate steps to regulate fishing activities in the state.

The CAG found fault with the government over non- adoption of a uniform fishing ban period, and raised concern about the possible 'over-fishing' on the state's coast.

The state fisheries department did not have a marketing policy, which is critical to its success, it noted.

The CAG expressed concern over the environmental issues associated with the fishing activity, in the wake of the United Nations' sustainable development goals, envisaged to save the marine life from unregulated or destructive fishing activities and promoting environment-friendly fishing.

Though the Gujarat Fisheries Act of 2003 prescribed that "the state government may regulate, restrict or prohibit fishing in any specified area to conserve fish, no specific notification on the subjects/matters has been issued by the government as of May 2017," the CAG said.

When the issue was raised during the audit, the state fisheries department said in September 2017 that the process of issuing such a notification had been initiated, it noted.

"The reply is not convincing. Since the enactment of the Act in 2003, the notification had not been issued. Further, the reply did not give reasons for non-issuance of the notification though mandated by the Act," the CAG said.

The audit report also expressed dissatisfaction over the 'non-adoption of a uniform fishing ban period' by the state government.

As per the recommendation of a technical committee constituted by the Centre in 2013, fishing should be banned from June 1 to July 31 (61 says) on the west coast, the CAG noted.

Though the Gujarat government consented to the recommendation, the "audit observed that the state was imposing a fishing ban for 67 days, starting from June 10 to August 15 every year."

"Thus, the Gujarat government was not complying with the Government of India's directions for the adoption of a uniform fishing ban period," it said.

The CAG also raised concern about the possible over- fishing, observing that though the berthing capacity of three major harbours was only 1,530 boats, as many as 10,048 were registered at Veraval, Mangrol and Porbandar harbours, having the fishing terminal divisions (FTDs).

"As the limit of number of fishing boats registered at a particular FTD had not been fixed, there is a possibility of over-fishing by boats operating from these FTDs," the auditor said.

It also expressed dissatisfaction over the fisheries department's various ongoing developmental works, such as up-gradation of FTDs and fish landing centres (FLCs), and the setting up of new fishing harbours.

After the audit and field visits to some FTDs and landing centres, the CAG said, "The fact remains that the delay in execution of projects financed by the National Fisheries Development Board deprived the fishermen and the fishing community of better facilities at the FLCs and FTDs."

It also said that the fisheries department failed to carry out works for the construction of nine new harbours as envisaged in the 12th Five Year Plan, "thereby depriving better facilities to the fishermen and fishing community".

The CAG also noted that the department did not have a marketing policy, which, it said, is critical to its success.

Instead, the department was assisting the small vendors and processing plant owners through various sub- schemes, it said.

On the state government's efforts to boost 'brackish water aquaculture', the CAG noted that the department was able to map (identify) only 12,165 hectares of land for the purpose against the availability of over 89,000 hectares.

"Besides, only 1,842.21 hectare of land was brought under the brackish water aquaculture from April 2012 to September 2017," the auditor said.

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