Lakshadweep is the only coral atolls of our country which has unique geographical features and with scattered islands. It has a vast lagoon of 4,200 Sq. Kms, Territorial waters of 20,000 Sq. Km, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 4,00,000 Lakhs Sq. Kms and coastal line of about 132 Kms. The sea around Lakshadweep is rich in fishery resources and the main fishery resource in the islands are Tuna. The estimated marine fishery potential resources in the sea around Lakshadweep is about one lack tones of tuna and tuna like fishes and about an equal quantity of Shark.
A huge part of the population in Lakshadweep depends on the fishery resources which is also the main livelihood of the inhabitants of the islands. Of the 27 islands and a number of submerged banks and open reef’s, the fishing activities are mainly concentrated in 11 islands and reef areas of Perumul Par, Valiyapani and Cheriyapani. There has been a steady growth of fish production, which once stood at 500 tonnes during 1950s crossed 12,000 tonnes in the recent years which is about 5% of the estimated fishable potential. Therefore, there is ample scope for developing the fishing industry in Lakshadweep. The tuna fishery and “masmin”, a traditional fishery product of Lakshadweep needs no introduction in Indian marine fishery products. The “Pole and Line” fishing a unique fishing method for the exploitation of tuna is only found in Lakshadweep in the Indian continent. The present annual production is about 12,000 tonnes, which is hardly 5% of the total potential. About 80% of the total landing of Lakshadweep contributes Skip Jack tuna and 60% of the total landing is converted to dried products and about 40% goes for local consumption.
The islands are scattered miles away from each other. Though, the tuna fishing is done deploying specially designed mechanised fishing boats, the traditional country crafts and country crafts fitted with Out Board Motors (OBM) are also widely used for fishing in Lakshadweep. Over the years, the local fishermen used primitive methods for fishing using traditional country crafts. By the inception of Department of Fisheries in 1959 by the UT Administration tremendous changes has been brought in the Fisheries sector by formulation and implementation of various Developmental Schemes and Programmes with prime objectives of enhancement of fish production aiming the socio-economic conditions of the fisher folks. One of the main developmental programmes of the department is the mechanization of the fishing vessels and by this date there are about 900 motorized fishing boats in Lakshdweep.
As a policy for augmenting fish production and to create employment opportunities, it is necessary to diversify fishing techniques. Other than the Skipjack tuna, no fish is caught on commercial basis. The Yellowfin tuna resource is almost unexploited since the technology for deep sea fishing is not prevalent in the territory. As such, more efforts are required to develop deep sea fishing during the XIth Plan period. The Lakshadweep Development Corporation Ltd (LDCL) has been mandated to develop the fisheries sector in the territory. The deep sea fishing using monofilament long line gear done by the Corporation proved the efficiency of the gear for exploitation of deep sea resources. The Tuna Canning Factory established and run by the Department has been transferred to LDCL has been producing good quality of value added products like canned tuna, tuna curry etc. As there is huge demand for canned tuna in India and abroad, the canning factory at Minicoy will be modernised to increase the production capacity. Global tender for procurement of Mother Vessel cum long liner, a vessel of its kind in the country will be floated shortly.
Plan Schemes also envisages human resources development by way of running a Fishermen Training Centre, conducting short term training programmes like in-vessel training, training in Marine Workshops to develop the skills in navigation, repair and maintenance of marine diesel engines. Aiming improvements in post harvest operations and marketing, stress is also given for creation of infrastructural facilities such as setting up of Ice Plants, Tunnel freezers, Cold Storages. For preservation of fish on board and at shore Insulated Ice Boxes will be provided to the fishermen.
The Lakshadweep Marine Fishing Regulation, 2000 and Marine Fishing Rules, 2001 came in force in Lakshadweep during the tenth Plan period. This territory is vulnerable to illegal fishing by outside fishing boats of the neighbouring States. Effective measures are required to be taken up to prevent entry of outside boats in the territorial waters of Lakshadweep for fishing by effectively enforcing Marine Fishing Regulation. As proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries a uniform web enabled registration & licensing (ReAL craft) of fishing crafts to be launched in November 2010 in co-operation with National Informatics Centre.