The SEAI is keen to bring sustainability certification by MSC, claiming that it will help marine products get premium prices in the international market. 
Published: 30th June 2023 10:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th June 2023 10:09 AM   |  A+A-
Image of a harbour used for representational purposes
KOCHI: Eight years after enforcing minimum legal size (MLS) in the marine fisheries sector, Kerala is all set to introduce another progressive regulation in the fisheries sector to protect marine resources and ensure sustainable fishing practices. 

The plan is to introduce eco-certification for seafood exports, which will reduce the stress on marine resources and ensure a premium price for seafood in American and European markets.
However, the move has set off a debate with the Seafood Exporters Association (SEAI) insisting on the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification programme and traditional fishermen and trawl boat owners demanding a desi eco-certification system. While the state government and Union fisheries department have extended support to the proposal to enter the MSC regime, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has mooted the idea of launching India’s own eco-certification programme.

Kerala is the only state in the country to implement a minimum legal size for the capture of 58 fish species. The state introduced MLS for 15 species in 2015 and extended the number to 58 species in 2018. After introducing the restrictions, the state enforced the MLS strictly, and fishing boats were slapped with a fine of Rs 2.5 lakh for juvenile fishing. The fishermen allege that MSC, a non-profit organisation to protect the oceans and safeguard seafood supplies, is funded by global corporate houses and that its entry will monopolise the fisheries sector. 
“It is being felt among the exporter community that eco-certification can help in realising premium prices for Indian products in the international markets. It will be beneficial for the fisherfolk in the country, if we can develop a national eco-certification programme along with marketing strategies for seafood products that has binding equivalence with other certification schemes administered by agencies such as MSC and Friend of the Sea,” CMFRI director Dr A Gopalakrishnan told TNIE .
The SEAI is keen to bring sustainability certification by MSC, claiming that it will help marine products get premium prices in the international market. 
“The Union government should utilise the expertise of organisations like CMFRI and CIFT to form an indigenous certification agency instead of succumbing to pressure from corporates,” said All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal. 
“The MSC has corporate interests. The certification will be beneficial for the exporters as it will remove the hassles in transportation and marketing. But the MSC will fix the price for the marine products, and the fishing community will be at a disadvantage,” he added. 
Opposing the move, Fishermen Coordination Committee state president Charles George said, “The MSC is trying to monopolise the sector. India has made remarkable progress in exports during the past couple of years and our market access is improving globally,” he said.
Meanwhile, SEAI ocean committee chairman A J Tharakan said, “Fisheries certification is the need of the hour to maintain India’s export income. Most of the importing countries are demanding sustainability certificates, and it has become a matter of survival for the exporters.

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