In order to prevent illegal fishing in India's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the government has drafted a new bill that aims to regulate fishing beyond the country's territorial waters, according to sources. An EEZ is a sea zone generally extending 200 nautical miles from a country's coastline that is reserved for the respective country under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
The bill on regulation and managing fishing in EEZ, which has been drafted by the fisheries ministry and is yet to get the Cabinet approval, assumes significance in the backdrop of growing illegal fishing in the zone.
"At present, a state government governs the territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles. Beyond that is India's EEZ and there is no law governing this zone. As a result, anybody can come and fish in this area," a highly place source said.
While territorial sea is a state subject, the EEZ is governed by the Central government. The objective of the new bill is to issue licence for fishing in the EEZ and curb illegal fishing from countries like China, the source said.
Under the proposed bill, state governments will be allowed to issue licence for fishing in EEZ as per the Central government's direction because fishermen who want to fish in EEZ have to cross the territorial sea which is governed by the states, the source added.
"Only our fishermen with licence will be able to fish in EEZ. Fishermen safety will be taken care of. No foreign vessels can enter this zone except with a right to passage which they have to apply," another source said.
The bill also proposes to impose heavy penalty on fishermen venturing into the EEZ without a legal permit and after the third offence, their vessels/boat will be impounded, the source said.
Besides, the government proposes to make monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) of fishing vessels under the proposed law, the source added.
The Andaman Islands account for 30 per cent of India's EEZ.