In India, the output of fish has increased at an exponential rate in the last 30 years. India is the world’s second-largest producer of fisheries and the third-largest producer of aquaculture. However, this rosy image does not reflect the difficult life of fisherfolk in India. A 2021 study showed that around 47% of employees in this sector live well below the poverty line. In 2019-20, the total marine fish production was 37.27 lakh tonnes, with Gujarat contributing the most—7.01 lakh tonnes or 19% of the total production. This, however, pales in comparison to the total inland fishing catch. In the same time period, inland fish production was 104.37 lakh tonnes, with Gujarat contributing only 1.58 lakh tonnes. Overall, across marine and inland fishing, Gujarat ranks third amongst Indian states for fish production. This brief looks at Gujarat and studies its fisheries sector to understand the issues that plague fisherfolk. First, we looked at the laws and rules as published by the Gujarat fisheries department. This gave us clarity on how the sector is regulated on paper and assessed potential issues and problems with the laws. This De Jure analysis was augmented with 34 on the ground interviews with Fishermen, Vendors, Boat Makers and Government officials. This survey provided us with insight into the gaps in the law, the way the law actually functioned, and the issues facing fishermen in the state. The De Facto survey brought to light several inconsistencies with the way the law is implemented and highlighted many issues that need to be addressed.
Karsanbhai Patel, the Former Minister, lauds CCS for their study of fisheries in Gujarat.
As a participant of the roundtable “Saving the Blue Economy” organised in Ahmedabad on 25 May 2022, I was quite impressed with the research put forward by Centre for Civil Society(CCS) on the challenges fisherfolk in Gujarat face. Although the think tank is based in Delhi, its assessment of fisherfolk's plight is insightful and accurate. I, along with other fisherfolk leaders, deliberated on some of these issues, met the government officials and raised these questions with them.
CCS partnered with Mazdoor Inc – a Gujarat-based organisation, for this detailed and comprehensive policy study. This study is of great importance because Gujarat's fisheries sector has immense export potential. Reforms suggested by this study, if implemented, will bring prosperity to the sector and the community at large. The entire fishing community in South Gujarat are grateful to these organisations for taking up the cause of an uncared for and underrepresented section of society.
- Karsanbhai Patel
- Former Minister and Leader Fishermen Community