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Managing coastal areas:

A fishing community

Chandrika Sharma
International Collective in Support of
Fishworkers (ICSF)
Coastal ecosystems and
 Coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves and coral
reefs, perform crucial coastal protection functions,
protect coastal communities against natural disasters
and provide rich spawning and breeding grounds for
 About 75 per cent of fish production in India is from
coastal waters, with 58 per cent of the fisheries
resources potential in India within the 0-50 m depth.
 Well-being and livelihoods of fishing communities is
linked to the health of the coastal ecosystem.
Coastal resources:
Growing pressure
 Fishing communities have traditionally been one of
the main inhabitants of coastal areas.
 Fuelled by pressures of economic globalization,
coastal and marine areas are being targeted, in an
unregulated manner, for tourism, urban expansion,
ports and harbours, waste and sewage disposal…..
 These activities take a heavy toll on coastal and
marine ecosystems, directly affecting productivity
and health of fisheries resources.
Coastal resources:
Growing pressure
 This has meant a deteriorating quality of life and
threat of eviction and/ or loss of access to beaches for
fishing communities
 There are several cases of displacement of fishing
communities (Sondikud, Orissa, Gangavaram,
Andhra Pradesh)
 Coastal ‘development’ often disrupts access of
fishing communities to beaches used for drying fish,
berthing boats etc. (fishing communities in Goa near
tourism resorts, Gorai, Maharashtra)
Coastal resources:
Growing pressure
 Fishing communities in urban areas, as in Mumbai
and Chennai, are being squeezed out
 Pollution, in particular, is becoming a big problem
for fishing communities, especially near industrial
areas in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra
Pradesh and Tamil Nadu
 Impact is greatest on those traditionally fishing in
inshore areas using non-mechanized craft, including
women engaged in gleaning/ collection activities
Coastal resources:
Growing pressure
 Coasts are, at the `receiving end’ of both land- and
sea-based activities, such as industry, intensive
agriculture, irrigation, shipping and oil and
 The impacts of unsustainable and polluting practices
on land and sea finally ‘concentrate’ in the coastal
zone—the health of coastal areas is a litmus test for
the overall health of land and sea-based ecosystems.
Coastal resources:
 Conservation and management of coastal and marine
resources are of benefit to small-scale fishworkers—
several such initiatives taken by them
 However, top-down conservation initiatives are
negatively affecting livelihoods of small-scale
fishworkers (Gahirmatha (Marine) Wildlife
Sanctuary, Orissa, set up for protection of olive
ridleys, and mangrove protection in Jambudwip
island, Sundarbans mangroves, West Bengal)
 Such initiatives are counterproductive, both for
biodiversity conservation and for livelihoods
Marine fishing
 There are 3,202 marine fishing villages and
756,212 households—a total of 3.52 million
people—along mainland India’s coastline of
6002 km (Marine Fisheries Census, 2005)
 Nearly half of this population (over 1.6 million
people) is engaged in active fishing and fishery-
related activities
 The fisheries sector contributes significantly to
the local and national economy, to employment
and to food security
Marine fishing
 The maximum number of marine fishing villages
are in Orissa (641), followed by Tamil Nadu
(581), Andhra Pradesh (498), Maharashtra (406)
and West Bengal (346)
 Fishing communities tend to be socio-
economically vulnerable, particularly along the
east coast of India
 Many communities, till today, lack clear titles to
the land they live and work on or well-defined
access rights to the waters they have customarily
Marine fishing
 Marine fishing communities in India are known
to be highly skilled, having fished for
generations along the coast
 The fishing craft and gear have evolved over
time and have, traditionally been in tune with
local geographical/ ecological features
 The coastal area is as much a lived space as an
occupational space, encompassing both the land
and the sea
Marine fishing
 In several areas fishing communities have well-
evolved social and cultural institutions organized
along caste, kinship or religious lines
 These have played—and, in many cases, still play—a
role in regulating resource use, conserving resources,
resolving conflicts, ensuring equitable access to
resources and in providing a form of social insurance

 These are in evidence, for example, along the

Coromandel coast, in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh
and parts of Orissa, and in northern part of Kerala
(the kadakodi or the “court of the sea”)
CRZ Notification 1991
 The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification,
1991, issued under the provisions of the Environment
(Protection) Act 1986, was to regulate development
in a defined coastal strip
 Notably, the Notification recognized the traditional
and customary rights of fishing communities to their
 The CRZ Notification has been poorly implemented,
and violations have been blatant
CRZ Notification 1991
 Efforts have been made by fishing community and
other organizations to draw attention to violations
 Fishing community and environmental groups have
filed several cases, under this Notification, to seek
protection of coastal ecosystems and habitats, eg. the
case by S Jagannath on destructive impact of shrimp
aquaculture farms in the coastal zone
 There are many cases regarding violation of the 1991
Notification still pending in the courts, awaiting
Proposed CMZ
Notification: Some
 A new Notification is being considered by the
MoEF, based on the recommendations of the
Swaminathan Committee, to replace the 1991
 Several issues of concern in the recommendations of
the Swaminathan Committee (letter by the NFF to
the MoEF in June 2006)
 A major concern is that there has been no process of
public consultation, especially with fishing
communities and their organizations
Proposed CMZ
Notification: Some
 Recommendations of the Committee do not explicitly
state that violations committed under the 1991
Notification must be settled and penalized
 The zonation proposed by the Committee, particularly
CMZ II, may pave the way for unsustainable
developmental activities on the coast, facilitating the
diversion of coastal lands used by fishing communities
for ‘development projects’
 The shift in focus from regulation to management could
lead to a dilution the regulatory aspects of the 1991
Proposed CMZ
Notification: Some
 There is no explicit recognition traditional and customary
rights of fishing communities in the coastal zone
 The expansion of the coastal zone to include territorial
waters—the area from the shore to 12 nautical miles—
will have major implications for livelihoods of fishing
 No explicit mention of the need for this area to be
managed with full participation of fishing communities,
to protect their rights to fish in this area, including in
proposed CMZ 1 areas, and to ensure that no part of this
area shall be diverted for any other purpose
What needs to be done

 Livelihood interests of natural-resources-

dependent communities, including fishing
communities, should be prioritized in coastal area
management and development
 Fishing communities should be part of decision-
making processes related to coastal area
management planning and development, in
keeping with Article 10.1.2 and 10.1.3 of the
1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible
What needs to be done

 Need to explicitly recognize rights of fishing

communities in the coastal zone, particularly:
 Their right to housing in coastal areas/existing

fishing villages, settlements or fishing hamlets,

with or without legal title deeds;
 Their right to use coastal lands for occupational

purpose (landing, selling, salting, smoking, curing

and drying of fish, parking and maintenance work
of boats and implements etc.); and
 Their right to access sea and marine resources
What needs to be done
 Need to recognize and support community-based
management and conservation initiatives, given:
 in-depth knowledge of communities about coastal

ecosystems and
 existence of fishing community institutions that

have traditionally played a role in regulating

resource use
 Existing legislation (pollution control, regulation of
development in coastal zones, etc.) should be
implemented, and, in particular, violations under the
CRZ Notification should be brought to book.