The state Fisheries department will soon chalk out a guideline to help the marginalised fish farmers through development of inland fisheries. It will also assess their potentialities which may be developed as an alternative source of income for many in the villages.
The department will ensure that sources of water in rivers are not cut down due to poor watershed management in the catchment areas. It has often been found that natural water drainage is obstructed by the construction of roads, railway tracks and the like. Another important issue is the usage of chemicals in agriculture which is destroying the fish resources of wetlands and paddy fields. It is the small fishermen who are worst hit if the quality of waterbodies are not good.
According to a senior official of the state Fisheries department, the guidelines which will be formulated will mainly focus on the protection, augment and sustainable use of the fish resources in all inland waterbodies. Guidelines will also be chalked out for protection of waterbodies and for the incorporation of fisheries in all development planning that affect them and watershed management.
Efforts will be made to sensitise the fisher folks and also create awareness about the need of developing inland fisheries in larger scale as 20 million fishermen are involved in this. A platform will also be set up to fight for the interest of small-scale fish workers throughout the state, meet their demands and protect their livelihood. A national policy on inland fisheries will be formulated in order to ensure that the concerns mentioned in it are addressed. Earlier, there have been several attempts to organise the fishing communities, but they have till date remained unsuccessful.
A national level meeting was conducted in West Midnapore recently and an advisory committee has been appointed to prepare a road map on the areas that need attention of the Centre and state government and how to develop the inland fisheries.
Various organisations of fishermen in the state have been demanding setting up of a national platform by the Centre which, they believe, will address several issues pertaining to small-scale fishermen which have been unaddressed for a long time.
Statistics show that rivers and canals, reservoirs, ponds and tanks, oxbow lakes, wetlands, backwaters and estuaries yield 6.14 million tonnes of fish, which is more than 64 percent of the total fish production in the country.
The potential of inland fishery resources has not been utilised yet properly. Less than 10 percent of the country's natural potential is used for fresh water aquaculture, while for brackish water aquaculture the area under cultivation is just above 13 percent of the potential area available.