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Fisheries is an important sector in India--it provides...

employment to millions of people and contributes to food security of the country. With a coastline of over 8,000 km, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of over 2 million sq km,

Fisheries Development and Management

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Comments on the Report of the Expert Committee Constituted for Comprehensive Review of the Deep Sea Fishing Policy and Guidelines (2014)

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This page brings you a broad overview on fisheries management and development in India, with exhaustive bibliographic references (including online resources), both ICSF publications and others.


Fisheries management in India, can be categorized into management of fisheries in the EEZ and in the territorial waters. According to the Constitution of India, the Central (Federal) government has jurisdiction over the fisheries in the EEZ, while the State (Provincial) governments have jurisdiction over fisheries in the territorial waters.

Fisheries management in the EEZ

Some of the important central legal frameworks for fisheries management are:

The main objective of the policy is to ensure sustainable development of marine fisheries with due concern for ecological integrity and biodiversity. The policy calls for adopting fisheries management regimes such as - registration of fishing vessels, observation of closed fishing seasons, proscription of destructive fishing methods, implementation of mesh size regulations, reduction of bycatch and discards and establishing an effective monitoring, control and surveillance mechanism. The guidelines specifically calls for compliance with CCRF and other international rules and regulations in the management of fish stocks. Besides these, a uniform fishing holiday is declared every year in the EEZ along east and west coasts. A national committee has also been constituted to effectively implement the provisions of the 1995 CCRF.

Fisheries development and planning is undertaken through the Five-Year Plans formulated by the government since 1951. The initial Five-Year Plans, starting from the 1950s, focused more on the ‘development’ of the sector, and on increasing production, while it was only in the Ninth and Tenth Five-Year Plan period that the need for conservation and management was explicitly recognized.

Besides these, several conservation measures have been initiated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), especially towards safeguarding against trade in endangered species (such as seaturtle, sea cucumbers, sea horse, and several species of molluscs), protection of certain habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves and breeding grounds of turtles, by designating protected areas (such as national parks and sanctuaries).

India's coastal features

State level fisheries management

  • Fisheries management is undertaken mainly through licensing, prohibitions on certain fishing gear, regulations on mesh size and establishment of closed seasons and areas, under the Marine Fishing Regulation Act (MFRA).
  • Zones are demarcated by each State based on distance from the shoreline (from 5 km to 10 km) or on depth. These inshore zones, where trawling and other forms of mechanized fishing is not permitted, are perhaps the most important space-based fisheries management measure in place.
  • The closed season or ‘monsoon fishing ban’ is another important ‘temporo-spatial’ management measure implemented on both the east and west coasts of India for a period of 47 days and 65 days respectively, during, what is considered to be the spawning and breeding season.

Besides these, there are several State-specific management measures, such as fishing regulation measures adopted by Orissa to protect the turtle nesting and breeding grounds, mandatory requirement to use turtle excluder devices.


The responsibility for fisheries and marine habitat is spread across several agencies and Ministries at the Central level.

Community-led initiatives

Community-level institutions also play an important role in fisheries governance along the coast. Examples that have been documented include the Kadakodi system of northern Kerala, Pedhaloo in southern Orissa, and the federated structure of the traditional Panchayat system of the Pattanavars community of Tamil Nadu/Andhra Pradesh coast (Vivekanandan 2009, Koshy 2007). These traditional governance systems, while important, are not officially recognized and/or involved in resources management.

However, a recent FAO United Nations Team for Tsunami Recovery Support (UNTRS) project titled “Towards Developing a New Co-Management Regime in India”, along with the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), noted the potential of traditional Panchayat structure of the Pattanavars along the Coromandel Coast in fisheries management (FAO 2008). Through the project, resource management councils were formed with representatives from traditional Panchayats from different villages and Fisheries Department officials of Tamil Nadu government, to explore options for community based co-management arrangements at the local level.

For more information: FAO/UNTRS. 2008. Setting directions for sustainable fisheries and coastal livelihoods in the post tsunami context, India: A report of the interventions by the FAO under the United Nations team for Tsunami Recovery Support. FAO, UNTRS and UNDP. New Delhi.

Some of the community-led initiatives include


International Obligations
India is signatory to:

  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),
  • 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA),
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  • Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR)
  • Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

For a complete list of international obligations, view FISHBASE

India's reports to various international bodies

Useful resources

Research institutes


Government Reports


  • Bavinck, M. , L. de Klerk, D. van Dijk, J.V. Rothuizen, A.N.Blok, J.R. Bokhorst, E.K. van Haastrecht, T.J.C. van de Loo, J.G.J. Quaedvlieg, J. Scholtens 2008. Time-zoning for the safe-guarding of capture fisheries: a closed season in Tamil Nadu, India. Marine Policy 32: 369-378.
  • Bavinck, M. and V. Salagrama 2008. Asessing the governability of capture fisheries in the Bay of Bengal – a conceptual enquiry. The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies 7 (1): 13 pp.
  • Bavinck, M and Derek Johnson. 2008. Handling the legacy of the blue revolution in India- Social justice and small-scale fisheries in a negative growth scenario. American Fisheries Society Symposium (49): 585-599
  • Bavinck, M. 2008. Collective strategies and windfall catches: fisher responses to tsunami relief efforts in South India. Transforming Cultures eJournal. Vol 3 (2), November 2008.
  • Bavinck, M. 2005. Understanding fisheries conflicts in the South- A legal pluralist perspective. Society and Natural Resources, 18: 805-820
  • Bavinck, M. 2003. The spatially splintered state: myths and realities in the regulation of marine fisheries in Tamil Nadu, India. Development and Change, 34 (4) 633-657.
  • Bavinck. M. 1988. One sea three contenders: Legal pluralism in the inshore fisheries of the coromandel coast, Doctoral Thesis, University of Amsterdam. India. 267p.
  • Bavinck, M., 1996. Fisher regulations along the Coromandel coast: a case of collective control of common pool resources, Marine Policy, 20 (6), 475-482.
  • Bhat, Mahadev G and Ramachandra Bhatta. 2006. Mechanization and technical interactions in multi-species Indian fisheries: Implications for economic and biological sustainability. Marine Policy.
  • BOBP. 2001. Report of the FAO/BOBP National workshop on the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Chennai, 29-30 September 2000. BOBP, Chennai.
  • BOBP. 2001. Report of the national workshop on fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance in support of fisheries management. FAO, 12-17 February 2001.
  • Coulthard, S. The interplay between fishing access and the ability to adapt: Insights from a South Indian fishery. Department of Economics and International Development, University of Bath, U.K.
  • Devraj.M and E.Vivekanandan. 1999. Marine capture fisheries of India: Challenges and opportunities. Current Science. Vol. 76. No.3. 10 February 1999. Download
  • Johnson, Derek and Jyothis Sathyapalan. 2006. Legal pluralism in the marine fishery of Junagadh district and the Union Territory of Diu. Indo-Dutch Programme on Alternatives in Development. Working Papers Series. No. 6.
  • Kurien, John. 2005. Evolving towards unsustainability: A personal statement on Kerala's marine fishery spanning three decades. International Journal of Rural Management: 73-96
  • Kurien, John. 2000. Capacity, costs and output changes in the small-scale fisheries sector of Kerala State- some preliminary questions and answers. CDS, Trivandrum
  • Kurien, John. 1998. Property rights, management and governance: Crafting an institutional framework for global marine fisheries. SIFFS. 
  • Kurien, John. 1995. Collective action for common property resource rejuvenation: the case of people's artificial reefs in Kerala State, India. Human Organization, Vol. 54 (2): 160-168
  • Kurien, John. 1994. Technology diffusion in marine fisheries- the concrete socio-economic and ecological interrelations: A study of the diffusion of motorised plywood boats along the lower south-west coast of India. Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay.
  • Kurien, John and T.R. Thankappan. 1990. Overfishing along the Kerala coast: Causes and consequences. Economic and Political Weekly. September 1-8: 2011-2018.
  • Kurien, John. 1991. Traditional versus modern and co-evolutionary development potential: the case of marine fisheries in India. Social Action, Jan-March 1991:29-41
  • Kurien, John. 1991. Ruining the commons and responses of the commoners coastal overfishing and fishermen's action in Kerala State, India. UNRISD, Geneva. Discussion paper 23.
  • Kurien, John and T.R. Thankappan. 1989. On ruuning the commons and the commoner- The political economy of overfishing. Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Trivandrum.
  • Kurien, John and Rolf Willmann. 1982. Economics of artisanal and mechanized fisheries in Kerala: A study on costs and earnings of fishing units. BOBP, Madras. Working Paper. No. 34
  • Kurien, John. 1982. Technological change in fishing: its impact on fishermen. CDS, Trivandrum.
  • Mathew, Ansy.N.P. 2009. Marine fisheries conservation and management in India. United Nations-The Nippon Foundation Fellowship Programme. New York, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), United Nations.
  • Mathew, S. 1991. Study of territorial use rights in small-scale fisheries: Traditional systems of fisheries management in Pulicat lake, Tamil Nadu, India. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, October 1991.
  • Nagothu, Udaya Sekar and S. Manasi. 2008. IWRM and livelihoods: Fisheries in Tungabhadra sub-basin, India. Striver policy brief.
  • Nayak N. 1993. Continuity and change in artisanal fishing communities. SIFFS and PCO, Trivandrum, Kerala. 93p.
  • Pillai, V.N. and N.G. Menon. 2000. Marine fisheries research and management. CMFRI, Kochi.
  • Southwold-Llewellyn, Sarah. 2006. Legal pluralism in the marine fisheries in East Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh, India. Indo-Dutch Programme on Alternatives in Development. Working Paper Series. No.4.
  • Varkey, Divya; Ganapathiraju Pramod and Tony J. Pitcher. 2006. An estimation of compliance of the fisheries of India with Article 7 (Fisheries Management) of the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. University of British Columbia.
  • Vivekanandan. E; M. Srinath and Somy Kuriakose. 2005. Fishing the marine food web along the Indian Coast. Fisheries Research.

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