Environment & Biodiversity

What is Purse Seine Fishing?

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that a ban on purse seine fishing imposed by certain coastal states, which is known to harm endangered species, is unjustified.

Purse seine fishing

  • It surrounds dense shoals of pelagic or midwater fish in the open ocean with a large vertical net, then draws in the edges like a drawstring purse.
  • A vertical net ‘curtain’ is used to surround the school of fish, with the bottom drawn together to enclose the fish, similar to tightening the cords of a drawstring purse.
  • It is widely used on India’s western coasts.

The issue

  • Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu Andaman and Nicobar Islands all prohibit this type of fishing within their respective territorial waters of up to 12 nautical miles.
  • However, states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, and West Bengal have not banned purse seine fishing.

Why states are divided over this?

  • Concerns about the declining stocks of small, pelagic shoaling fish such as sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and trevally on the western coasts have been raised in some states.
  • The scientific community contends that climatic conditions, including the El Nino phenomenon, are to blame for the ten-year decline in such fish catch.
  • Fishermen who use traditional methods have blamed the rise of purse seine fishing.
  • They are concerned that if the ban is lifted, the availability of these small fish will decrease even further.

Centre’s point of view

  • The Union government’s Fisheries Department has recommended that the purse seine fishing ban be lifted.
  • The expert panel has said that this mode of fishing has “per se has not resulted in any serious resource depletion so far, given the available evidence”.
  • It advised purse seiners to fish in territorial waters and the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under certain conditions.

Way Forward

  • Purse seine fisheries should have a national management plan.
  • A partial ban in some states may disadvantage fishermen in other states. 
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