Event ReportsPublished on Jul 18, 2011
Indian Foreign Secretary Ms Nirupama Rao has suggested joint management of fisheries resources, alternative methods of fishing and examining alternative livelihood to resolve the fisheries disputes between countries in the South Asian region.
Foreign Secretary suggests joint management of fisheries resources

Indian Foreign Secretary Ms Nirupama Rao has suggested joint management of fisheries resources, alternative methods of fishing and examining alternative livelihood to resolve the fisheries disputes between countries in the South Asian region.

Ms. Rao’s suggestions came at an international conference organised by Observer Research Foundation on Monday and Tuesday (July 18 & 19) to discuss the "Fisheries Issues" which are affecting the relationship between many south Asian countries.

Delivering the inaugural address on Monday evening, the Foreign Secretary noted that many countries around the world regard fisheries resources as "common pool resources" since fish care nothing about political boundaries.

"The exploitation of fisheries resources in such a situation can only be managed effectively by cooperation between the States concerned," the Foreign Secretary said, adding "the issue of fisheries is definitely not a zero sum game" and a solution can be found to the problem.

Talking about India-Sri Lanka fishing problems, the Foreign Secretary said both the countries are engaging in a dialogue at all levels aimed at addressing the problem comprehensively and working out a practical arrangement which would allow the fishing communities on both sides to coexist peacefully.

The Foreign Secretary said in this regard, fishermen’s associations from both countries have a major role to play as they interact with each other, understand each other’s problems better and have the ability to come out with ideas to resolve the issue at hand.

The Foreign Secretary suggested studying the experiences of fellow Asian countries, especially between China and Vietnam, which have signed agreements regulating fishing in their area. "Some countries have set up common fishery zones. Are there lessons to be learnt from such experiences?" she asked.

She noted that in cases where there are fishing agreements, a Joint Fisheries Committee is also set up, which maintains the equilibrium and order in fishing activity between the two countries concerned. Cases where fishermen stray into territorial waters of the other country are dealt with efficiently, with the straying fishermen and their vessels released promptly on posting a bond or other form of security, she said.

The Foreign Secretary said China and Vietnam also prohibit destructive fishing, like use of explosives, besides restricting bottom sea trawling.

The Foreign Secretary hoped that since India and Sri Lanka have a mutually agreed maritime boundary, "we should be able to learn from best international practices on how to establish a fisheries management system between the two countries."

The Foreign Secretary also underlined the need for "some kind of political compromises" to resolve the disputes. "Our aim should be to ensure a peaceful settlement of these issues and stability of existence of our fishing communities on both sides. This will involve some degree of political compromise," she said.

The Foreign Secretary said the two-day conference is particularly relevant for India as it has a coastline of 7500 kilometers and shares a maritime boundary with several of its neighbours, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

Prominent scholars, stake-holders and officials from India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Holland, Denmark and Australia took part in the conference which looked at various aspects like "Livelihood concerns and ground realities", "Managing the resources, making alternatives possible", "Problem-solving mechanisms and methods".

The session on "Livelihood concerns and ground realities" had papers on "Problems of Palk Bay fishermen on the Indian side", "Problems of Northern and Eastern fishermen from Sri Lanka" and "Problems faced by multi-day fishermen from Sri Lanka".

The session on "Managing the resources, making alternatives possible" had presentations on "Palk Bay Commons", "Problem of small-scale fisheries and tackling them", "International perspectives" and a discussion on the papers.

The session on "Problem-solving mechanisms and methods" saw experts like Dr. Y.S. Yadava, Director, Bay of Bengal Inter-Governmental Organisation, Chennai, Prof. Jesper Raajaer Nielson from the University of Alborg, Denmark (on European and African Experience), Dr. Shotaro Hamamoto, Kyoto University, Japan (on Japanese Experience) and Dr. Stuart Kaye, University of western Australia, Perth (on Australian Experience)

Other important speakers included Dr. V. Suryanarayan (Academic Head, Centre for Asian Studies), Dr. V. Vivekanandan (Advisor, south Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies), Dr. Siluvaithasan Augustine Soosai (Jaffna University, Sri Lanka), Dr. Oscar Amarasinghe (University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka), Dr. K. Vijayakumaran (Director General, Fisheries Survey of India), Dr. Prabhakaran Paleri (former Director General, Coast Guard), Dr Sebastian Mathew (International Collective in Support of Fish Workers), Dr. Maarten Bavinck (University of Amsterdam) and Dr. K. Gopakumar (former Dy. Director General, Indian Council for Agricultural Research).

Many practical suggestions came up during the conference - like the need for creating a separate department for the fisheries, effective governance of the fisheries resources, effective agreements between countries which should be beneficial to the fishing communities of the respective countries, etc.

Foreign Secretary’s speech

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