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KARACHI: Fishermen demand ban on deep-sea trawlers

December 27, 2005

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KARACHI, Dec 26: Describing deep-sea fishing as disastrous for coastal economy of Sindh and Balochistan, small fishermen of both the provinces have once again demanded a complete ban on the movement of trawlers in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

People engaged in fishing, when interviewed, said these huge trawlers, known as ‘factory ships’, would always sweep away the entire valuable sea resources.

Senior directors of the Fishermen Cooperative Society, including Haji Mohammad Yunis, and the NGOs representing fishermen community have been protesting against the operation of deep-sea trawlers for quite sometime.

They claimed that deep-sea trawlers had not only been inflicting heavy losses to the country by destroying its valuable sea resources, but also depriving small fishermen of their livelihood.

They urged the federal government to impose a complete ban on deep-sea trawlers and cancel their licences in the greater national interests so as to save the coastal economy from collapse.

Under the new deep-sea fishing policy, the country’s marine area has been divided into three zones. They are: Zone-I (O-12 nautical miles), Zone-II (12-35 nautical miles) and Zone-III (35-200 nautical miles).

Fishing rights in Zone-I have been reserved for traditional small scale fishermen of Sindh and Balochistan who can operate in this area, while Zone-II is reserved for operation of medium-sized vessels.

The small fishermen have always expressed reservations over the deep-sea policy, saying that deep-sea trawlers with highly sophisticated nets have been harming economy of local fishermen by transgressing their zone.

They argued that this policy proved disastrous for millions of fishermen and their families in Sindh and Balochistan and urged the government to revise its policy and put a total ban on the operation of deep-sea trawlers.

Though the government has announced tougher penalties for violators of fishing zone, the small fishermen have always complained that deep-sea trawlers have been engaged in violating their respective water zones without any check.

The dispute has perturbed fisheries officials who are presently occupied with other urgent issues such as a considerable decline in fish catch.

Initially, the military government had imposed a ban on deep-sea fishing, but it was withdrawn later and a zoning fishing system, based on exclusively reserved areas for big trawlers and small boat owners, was introduced.

The small fishermen of Sindh and Balochistan have always opposed the government decision to allow the operation of big trawlers.

They are of the view that these ships are destroying precious fish species and damaging marine resources.