It is now mandatory that all vessels used for export of fish be registered with the Export Inspection Council (EIC). Moreover, it is compulsory for all seafood exporters to procure raw materials only from vessels that are approved by the EIC. Presently, the vessels used for exports are registered with the state fishery departments.
The vessels can be registered with the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), in order to enable the exporters to get subsidy and government aid.
In addition, the EIC has mandated that the vessels used for export purposes must be designed in such a way that contamination of the seafood is avoided. Exporters also need to make provisions for the preservation of fresh seafood, and for investment in equipment made of corrosion-resistant material, so as to make it easy to clean and disinfect. The EIC has also asked fishermen to try and avoid injury to the animals while catching or storing them.
Fishermen are displeased with these new mandates, and maintain that most of the requirements are impractical. The fishing industry is also facing challenges due to increasing costs and lack of availability of catch.
Jossy, a fisherman, stated that the industry is also plagued by a severe shortage of labour shortage, rising wages and price of diesel, and that the EIC mandates will only worsen the situation.
“The mandatory requirement of registration with EIC and the pre-conditions for registration will add to our woes. Though these measures are for enhancing the quality of Indian seafood items, these seem impractical to an ailing sector like ours,” he stated.
The new EIC regulations are beginning to have a significant impact on seafood exports, which have started to decline. Kochi-based fishermen have expressed concern over this, as declining exports means huge losses for the sector.
Anwar Hashim, Vice Chairman of MPEDA, states: “Exporters are planning to stop purchase of fish if the registration is compulsory. There is no other way till the issue is settled. There is confusion over the registration process and power to a number of regulatory bodies creates serious problems for the industry.”
Hashim expressed worry that the ailing seafood industry will further push it towards a crisis if sufficient time for the implementation of the regulations is not given.
Source: Business Standard