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Monday, June 1, 2015

TN fishing ban ends ! ~ continues in EEZ ~ Sec 43 of MI Act 1963

Gnathanodon speciosus (also known as  Golden trevally) is a species of large marine fish classified in the jack and horse mackerel family Carangidae, and the only member of the genus Gnathanodon.

The golden trevally is widely distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  This fish [photo credit : TOI] was reportedly sold for Rs.2000/- at Kasimedu, Chennai.  

Incidentally, do you know  Sec. 43 of Marine Insurance Act 1963 !

India inherited a legacy of fisheries regulations from the colonial period. The Indian Fisheries Act of 1897 and provincial adaptations of the same served the larger interests of regulation of fisheries activities, especially the control of destructive methods. After independence, the thrust on fisheries development resulted in mechanization, motorization and overall expansion of fisheries.  Conservation of fishery resources is a vital aspect of sustainable fisheries management.  There exists seasonal ban on fishing stipulated by various Govt departments. Almost all tropical species have a prolonged spawning season lasting for 6 to 7 months with one or two peak spawning in a year. As these spawning peaks occur during different months for different species, a common time period covering spawning period of most species could not be identified.

In Tamil Nadu, from mid Apr 2015, started the 45 day annual ban on deep sea fishing along the East Coast of Tamil Nadu came  into force. The ban, enforced by the district administration through Fisheries Department, is aimed at facilitating breeding of fishes and conservation of fish stock in marine ecology.  Now the ban is over and fishermen are busy venturing back.   Fishermen generally utilise this period for mending the nets and repairing the boats.   It takes around 10 – 15 days for maintenance work in every boat. Overhauling of engines, dry docking, carpentry works and painting of vessels all get carried out during this lean period.

On 31st May, Kasimedu fish market was buzzing with activity - crowds that had gathered to grab the fresh catch from boats that returned after just a day’s fishing were not disappointed. Though only around 20 tonnes of sankara, cuttlefish, vari paarai , kizhanga and white prawn was brought in, buyers and fishermen were happy, said a seafood exporter. The prices were naturally high, as the fresh supplies were coming after a long ban – prices are expected to come down after a short while, naturally. 

On another plane, the  Hindu reports that fishermen violated instructions from the police and set sail a day earlier ! According to this report, over 7,000 fishermen ventured into sea in 1,400 trawlers on Friday night itself,  without obtaining fishing permits, ignoring the instructions of Fisheries department, as the 45-day ban period drew to a close. The ban period ended on Friday midnight and the Fisheries department instructed fishermen to venture into sea on Saturday morning after getting permits, but the fishermen in Rameswaram, Mandapam and Pamban started from 8 p.m. on Friday.  It is stated that fishermen chose to do so after reports suggested that their counterparts in Kottaipattinam and Jagadapattinam in Pudukottai district started on Friday night.  Early on Saturday morning, the Rameswaram fishing jetty, which housed more than 750 trawlers, wore a deserted look. The Fisheries department issued permits to only five trawlers on Saturday morning, sources said. Similar was the case in Pamban and Mandapam fishing jetties, the sources added. Action would be initiated against the erred fishermen after instructions from higher officials, the sources said.

The fishermen have taken the risk despite the fear perception of Sri Lankan navy arresting them if they crossed the boundary line loomed large. Reports received here said the fishermen confined themselves to Indian waters throughout Friday night before making attempts to get into the Lankan waters on Saturday. Though the State ban is over, the seasonal fishing ban shall continue to be observed in the Indian EEZ from 15 April to 14 June (61 days) along the East Coast and during 01 June to 31 July (61 days) along the West Coast.

From a Marine Insurance perspective, in India, the fishing trawlers are insured subjected to ‘Institute Fishing Vessel Clause’ [IFVC] – the trawler owner can opt for a total loss cover or for cover including hull breakdown and partial losses. Along side Fire, explosion, jettison, piracy – perils of the seas, rivers, lakes or other navigable waters is a named peril.  A vessel sinking caused by an insured peril would be within the purview of the policy – yet, one need to check the compliance of warranties both express and implied.  Sec 43 of Indian MI Act 1963 deals with ‘warranty of legality’ -  There is an implied warranty that the adventure insured is a lawful one, and that, so far as the assured can control the matter, the adventure shall be carried out in a lawful manner. [ same as Sec 41 of MI Act 1906 of UK]

The Insurers would call for permit and other such relevant documents to check that at the time the boat set out sailing, there was no ban / restriction on sailing – and if so, it would breach the warranty.  Though the loss could have occurred a couple of days later, this breach would entail repudiation of the claim by the Insurer.

Now that the annual ban is over in Tamilnadu, TN fishermen can venture in to territorial waters, however the ban imposed on fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) would continue to be in operation for 61 days, that is up to June 14.  When fishermen chose to venture beyond, they could face trouble.  The Govt. provides a cash relief of Rs 4,000 to the families of fishermen as a compensation for loss of revenue during the ban period.  The ban on fishing  shall apply to all types of vessels except the traditional non-motorised units using no source of power for catching fish or for propulsion using fossil fuel all along the coast.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

1st June 2015.

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