India: Are shark conservation laws inclusive?
While scientists, bureaucrats and politicians are making policy around fisheries, are the voices of the fishing communities represented?
- Scientists, government agencies and the media routinely write about the skill and knowledge of the specialised shark fishermen from the Thoothoor village in the Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu
- But fishermen from the region claim that when it comes to drafting laws and policies for conserving shark species their views are rarely taken into account.
- Thoothoor’s fishermen believe that shark conservation in India would only succeed if the voices of fishing communities are heard.
The fishermen of the Thoothoor region in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu are renowned for their bold sea-faring journeys and their ability to catch large, deep-sea species, such as sharks, tuna and marlin. Government reports and news stories often highlight their special deep-sea fishing skills.
But these fishermen say the government doesn’t consult them enough when drafting policies and regulations around marine resource management. As a result, they say they’re faced with the choice of following laws they believe are unrealistic or risk losing their livelihoods.
“We [fishing community] are not represented anywhere. We are not there in the legislative assembly. We are not there in the parliament or even in official departments,” said Jose Bilbin, the president of the Thoothoor Fishermen’s Cooperative Society. If the government is truly serious about protecting fragile marine species like sharks and safeguarding fisher communities, Jose believes that the voices of communities like Thoothoor must be heard before marine conservation laws are passed.