Mains Articles

Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management (MFRM) Bill 2019

The annual fishery potential of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is about 5 million tons. Utilizing it judiciously is an important priority of the government that was underscored by the formation of a new fisheries ministry.
By IT's Mains Articles Team
September 03, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Indian Fishers sector
  • About Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries
  • About UNCLOS
  • Highlights of the Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management (MFRM) Bill 2019
  • Significance of the Bill
  • Criticism of the Bill
  • Suggestions
  • Conclusion

Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management (MFRM) Bill 2019

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  • A Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management (MFRM) Bill 2019 is in the public domain for discussion.

Indian Fishers sector

Indian Fishers sector Marine Fisheries Regulation

  • Fish and fish product exports emerged as the largest group in agricultural exports in 2018-19.
  • India is the second largest fish producer in the world (with a total production of 13.7 million metric tonnes in 2018-19 of which 65 per cent was from inland sector).
  • Almost 50 per cent of inland fish production is from culture fisheries, which constitutes 6.5 per cent of global fish production.
  • The total fish production during 2017-18 constitutes about 3% of the global fish production.
  • More than 50 different types of fish and shellfish products are being exported to 75 countries around the world.
  • For promoting aquaculture, 429 Fish Farmers Development Agencies (FFDAs) and 39 Brackishwater Fish Farms Development Agencies (BFDAs) were established in India.
  • The potential of marine fishery resources available in Indian waters is estimated at 5.31 million metric tonnes. Against this potential, the production from marine fisheries in 2018-19 has been estimated as 3.72 million metric tonnes, showing that there is a marginal scope for tapping of more resources from the sea.
  • The fishing sector has been showing a steady growth in the total gross value added and accounts for 5.2 per cent share of agricultural GDP.
  • In 2018, Government approved the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) worth Rs. 7,522 crores to fill the large infrastructure gaps in fisheries through developing infrastructure projects.
  • In February 2019, government published Draft National Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy for sustainable development of inland fisheries and aquaculture, to ensure food and nutritional security, employment and ecological health.

About Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries

blue-revolution Mains Articles

  • It is an umbrella scheme (merged all the schemes of fisheries Sector) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries for integrated development and management of fisheries.
  • It is a central sector scheme. The share of centre and state is 50:50 for general states and 80:20 for Hilly/North-east states.
  • It targets to achieve the growth rate of about 8% annually over a period of 5 years and to achieve the projected fish production set at 15 million metric tons by 2022.
  • It has total central outlay of 3000 crores for implementation during a period of five years (2015-16 to 2019-20).
  • The activities under this scheme are undertaken by the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB).


The scheme has the following broad components:

  • Development of Marine Fisheries, Infrastructure and Post-Harvest Operations
  • National Scheme for the welfare of Fishermen
  • Development of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture
  • National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) and its activities


  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III).


  • It defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
  • The UN has no direct operational role in the implementation of the Convention.
  • India Ratified this convention in 1995.

Three zones

Three zones

Three zones 1

  • Under UNCLOS, the sea and resources in the water and the seabed are classified into three zones — the internal waters (IW), the territorial sea (TS) and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
  • The internal waters include gulfs and small bays. Coastal states treat IW like land.
  • The territorial sea extends outwards to 12 nautical miles from the baseline. Coastal nations enjoy sovereignty over airspace, sea, seabed and subsoil and all living and non-living resources in territorial sea area.
  • The exclusive economic zone extends outwards to 200 nautical miles from the baseline. Coastal nations have sovereign rights for exploration, exploiting, conserving and managing all the natural resources in EEZ.
  • Since fisheries is a state subject, fishing in the IW and TS come within the purview of the states concerned.
  • Other activities in the TS and activities, including fishing beyond the TS up to the limit of the EEZ, are in the Union list. No Central government has framed laws covering the entire EEZ. The Bill attempts to make up for this.

Highlights of the Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management (MFRM) Bill 2019

  • The Bill prohibits fishing by foreign fishing vessels, thus nationalising EEZ.
  • An Indian fishing vessel desirous of fishing in the EEZ, outside the TS, must obtain a permit. No permit is issued unless the fishing vessel is registered under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.
  • It proposes social security for fish workers and calls for protection of life at sea during severe weather events.

Significance of the Bill

  • Bigger vessels, particularly trawlers, registered and licenced under state departments, will need a permit to fish. This is a welcome measure to manage the fishing sector.
  • The Bill respects the jurisdiction of Indian coastal states over the territorial sea.

Criticism of the Bill

  • The bill wrongly assumes that only large-scale vessels do fishing outside the TS. In reality, thousands of small-scale fishing crafts regularly venture outside the TS (in EEZ). Their freedom to access fish outside the TS will cease if the Bill becomes law. A few exemption clauses to safeguard their livelihoods should be incorporated in the Bill.
  • The Bill lacks congruence with important regional fishery agreements. It is incomplete compared to the regulations in other coastal nations. However, it is necessary for the sustainable future of the marine fishing industry.


  • Cooperative governance between Centre or states over different territories (IW, TS and EEZ) is key to the sustainable management of marine fisheries, which should now ideally go into the Concurrent List.
  • Small-scale fish workers should demand making the entire IW and TS completely free of trawling using the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/Untied nation (UN) Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines to support their arguments. This will raise their incomes, ensure a steady supply to consumers, heal the coastal areas and curb the bane of destructive fishing.


  • India has been defending the rights of developing nations for special and differential treatment. Developed countries contend that nations without laws to manage fisheries in their respective EEZs are not serious about unregulated fishing. The MFRM Bill is India’s response to such sentiments.
  • The Bill is also a response to discussions on fisheries’ subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO) since the Doha Round of 2001.


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