Fishermen engaged in the PSN fishery said the restriction imposed by the government of Maharashtra violated their fundamental right to profess a profession and that there had been no effective consultation under the law.
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered the Maharashtra Fisheries Department to review the state of fish stocks along the Konkan coast in three months and decide whether to maintain fishing restrictions with a purse seine net (PSN) along the coastline. PSN is basically a fishing technique that uses a purse seine to catch large schools of fish.
Ujjal Bhuyan Division Court and Judge Madhav Jamdar issued the directive on a petition filed by five fishermen, one from Mumbai and four from Ratnagiri district, engaged in PSN fishing. They had contested the validity of the decree of February 5, 2016 issued by the fisheries service, reserving certain areas along the shore for traditional fishing and restricting PSN fishing beyond certain limits of territorial waters. The Order also established strict standards for purse seine nets.
They argued that the ordinance violated their fundamental right to profess a profession and that there had been no effective consultation, as provided for by the Maharashtra Sea Fishing Regulation Act 1981 and that the opinions of PSN fishermen had not been taken into account before issuing the order.
The Fisheries Department, on the other hand, maintained that PSN fishing was permitted on about 60% of the coastline between September and December and that the order balanced the rights of traditional fishermen and PSN fishermen, who use mechanized boats.
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The High Court, in its order, noted that the February 2016 order was based on the recommendations of a committee set up by the state government in September 2011 which recommended that the situation of fish stocks be reviewed every five years and that a new decision be taken regarding PSN Fisheries for the next five years. SC noted that despite a considerable lapse of time, the Fisheries Department had not examined the fish stock along the coast and ordered that this be done.
The court also said that as a result of the investigation, a new decision regarding the PSN fishery is made after proper consultation with the district advisory committees and after hearing representatives of the PSN fishermen.