Exclusive Economic Zone Current Affairs - 2020

Cabinet Approval: India-Iceland MoU in Sustainable Fisheries Development

On February 12, 2020 the Union Cabinet approved the Memorandum of Understanding signed between India and Iceland in the field of fisheries.

Highlights

The countries had signed agreements in September 2019, to develop inland fisheries. According to the agreement, the countries agreed to create facilities of technical experts and scientists in shore areas and deep sea areas. They also agreed on exchange of scientific research literature, scientific experts in the field of fisheries.

The agreement strengthens bilateral cooperation between India and Iceland.

Fisheries in India

According to the Economic Survey 2020, fisheries contribute to 6.58% of India’s GDP along with agriculture and forestry. The export of marine products for the year 2018-19 was 13.92 lakh tonnes. The survey also says that the total fish production of the country stood at 13.42 million tonnes in the year 2018-19. The major fisheries resources of India is spread across the vast coast line. It stands at 2.02 million square km of the Exclusive Economic Zone.

The GoI in 2018-19 allocated Rs 7,522 crores of rupees towards Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Fund (FIDF).

Indian Coast Guard can now legally search & seize vessels in EEZ

Union Ministry of Defence has authorized every member of Coast Guard under Coast Guard Act 1978, to visit, board, search and seize any suspicious vessel and arrest people for offences within Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of country. The permission also includes seizing of any artificial island/ any floating or moored object/ any underwater object including any maritime property involved or suspected to be used in the commission of any offence. Therefore, empowering Indian Coast Guard will now enhance coastal security.

Background

Just to board and search suspicious vessels, the Indian Coast Guard (maritime security force of country) have been seeking more powers under The Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976, since 2009.

Before this notification, the maritime security agency did not have the power to board any vessel that passes through India’s EEZ. The Coast Guard then used provisions of Customs Act and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and other relevant acts to board and seize vessels in EEZ. However, it did not have necessary legal backing and many cases would fall flat in court.

There was also a legal loophole using which the vessel companies could sue Coast Guard for detaining ships without any authorisation. Moreover, if Coast Guard officials would seize drugs, detain offenders and hand them over to agencies such as local police, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). The vessels would be handed over to port authorities.

About Indian Coast Guard (ICG)

It is an independent Armed force of India that was formally established by Coast Guard Act, 1978 of Parliament. It protects India’s maritime interests and enforces maritime law, with jurisdiction over territorial waters of India, including its contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It operates under the Ministry of Defence and works in close cooperation with Indian Navy, Department of Revenue (Customs), Department of Fisheries, and Central and State police forces.