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  • 20 February, 2023

  • 5 Min Read

Deep Sea Fish Conservation

Deep Sea Fish Conservation

  • The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Tamil Nadu (200 nautical miles) and outside territorial seas (12 nautical miles), subject to certain limits, have been approved for fishing by the Supreme Court of India.


  • The Court's interim order against the Tamil Nadu Government's ban on purse seine fishing appears to be more concerned with administrative and transparency measures to regulate fishing than with the obligations and conservation measures that a coastal state is required to follow in its EEZ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • The order ought to have taken into consideration conservation strategies (as recommended by various regional conventions) and rulings from various tribunals (incorporating conservation strategies based on best science or pertinent scientific evidence to control overfishing and protect endangered marine living resources from extinction).
  • Contrary to traditional fishers employing traditional fishing gear, purse seiners frequently overfish, threatening the traditional fisher's means of subsistence.
  • Food security is under risk due to the declining supply of oil sardines, a favourite fish among Keralans.
  • Only 3,297 tonnes of sardines were taken in by Kerala in 2021, a significant drop from the 3.9 lakh tonnes taken in in 2012.

Endangered Species Threatened:

  • A potential trade embargo may be threatened by the non-selective fishing techniques used by purse seines that result in the bycatch of other marine living species, some of which may be endangered.

What is fishing with purse seines?

  • A purse seine is a huge wall of netting that is positioned all the way around a region or school of fish.
  • A lead line that has been woven between rings at the bottom of the seine allows it to float along the top line.
  • A skiff surrounds a school of fish with its net after finding it. After that, the lead line is drawn in, "pursing" the net shut on the bottom to stop fish from swimming down to escape.
  • The method has been widely used on India's western shores and is said to be an effective method of fishing.
  • Targets include dense schools of pelagic (midwater) fish, such as tuna and mackerel, that belong to a single species.

Regulating fishing techniques:

  • It is insufficient to limit purse seine fishermen to fishing only on certain days and hours.
  • Large-scale pelagic net usage is being phased out through international legal action.
  • Because to the enormous size of purse seine nets, traditional fisherman cannot catch as much as the purse seiners can.
  • Large drift net usage is prohibited or called for to be prohibited by a number of regional organisations, such as the Tarawa Declaration of the South Pacific Forum from 1989.
  • Port access for drift net fishing vessels is constrained by the 1989 Convention on the Prohibition of Fishing with Long Drift Nets in the South Pacific.

Conservation and conventions:

  • The supreme court ought to take direction from the duties resulting from the multilateral and regional conventions, which are intended to implement sustainable fishing methods over a set length of time, allowing a common resource like fish to be renewed naturally.
  • UNCLOS: In accordance with UNCLOS Articles 56.1(a) and 56.1(b)(iii), coastal nations have the sovereign right to control how the living and non-living resources in the EEZ are used, managed, and protected from overexploitation.
  • Foreign fleet entry into the zone is also exclusively at the discretion of the coastal state and is governed by its rules and regulations.
  • The best available scientific evidence must be used by coastal States to estimate the total permissible catch (TAC) in the EEZ in order to prevent overexploitation.
  • In resolutions enacted in 1989 and 1991 by the UN General Assembly, a moratorium on all big pelagic drift net fishing vessels in international waters was demanded.

UN (United Nations) Ocean Conference 2022:

  • To secure international cooperation in the preservation and maintenance of the global ocean ecosystem.
  • Fighting illicit fishing, decarbonizing shipping, and lowering plastic pollution are all goals of the One Ocean Summit.
  • Another source of information that the Court could have used to aid in the regeneration of reduced fishing stocks is the Southern Bluefin Tuna Conservation Convention of 1993 (SBT).
  • TAC and allocation distribution among the SBT parties are key components and are crucial from the perspective of general fishery conservation.
  • TAC and catch quotas are intended to encourage fishermen to follow sustainable fishing practices and to preserve maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
  • The implementation of TAC and catch quota may run into scientific uncertainty over the appropriate safe limits to maintain MSY.
  • Under such circumstances, it is customary in international environmental law to err on the side of caution.


  • An international agreement from 1982 called the UNCLOS lays out the legal foundation for marine and maritime activity.
  • It also goes by the name "Law of the Sea." It divides marine areas into five main zones: the High Seas, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Contiguous Zone, Territorial Sea, and Internal Waters.
  • It is the only international agreement that lays out a foundation for sovereign authority in maritime areas. It gives certain maritime zones various legal statuses.
  • It serves as the framework for offshore governance among coastal nations and seafarers.
  • Further to zoning the offshore areas of coastal states, it offers detailed instructions on each state's rights and obligations inside the five concentric zones.

Way Forward

  • Dealing with the endless nature of the seas is a difficulty even the strongest conservation policies and regulations, making a shared resource like fish open to exploitation by everybody.
  • Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" argument, which asserts that "freedom in commons brings devastation to all," ought to persuade all fishermen, particularly Tamil Nadu's purse seiners, to collaborate in adhering to conservation measures.
  • The court must also take into account the recommendations of regional and international conventions on non-selective fishing technology, regulating fishing methods, and sustainable fishing practices.

Source: The hindu

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