Fisheries Law: Definition and Meaning

Fisheries have been a vital source of food, nutrition, employment, and economic gain for humanity, since ancient times. However, the sector has assumed greater significance in recent years, especially in developing countries, due to its large contributions to overall fish production, nutritional security, and gainful employment generation.

India is the world's third-major producer of fish (data may subject to change). The fishing industry directly supports the livelihoods of almost 14 million people. The contribution from the inland and marine sectors is 5.29 and 3.25 million tonnes, respectively. In recent years, marine fisheries have grown at a slower rate than inland fisheries.

What Exactly the Fisheries Law Defines?

Fisheries law is a new and specialized subject of the law. In order to assess fisheries management rules, fishing law also considers international treaties and organizational policies. Additionally, fisheries law covers labor problems, including child labor laws, employment law, and family law, as well as access to justice for small-scale fisheries, coastal populations, and indigenous populations.

Laws and regulations pertaining to aquaculture are also covered in the study of fisheries. The production of aquatic species, such as fish and aquatic plants, is known as aquaculture or aqua-farming. Regulations and specifications for animal feed are included in this body of study. In order to reduce threats to human health and safety, it is crucial to control the diet that fish are given.

Maritime States: Marine Fishery Laws

India has ten marine states or union territories: Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal along the east coast, bordering the Bay of Bengal; Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, and Kerala along the west coast, bordering the Arabian Sea. Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the two island union territories, and they are located in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, respectively.

Since the 1960s, small automated boats of 9 to 10 meters have gained popularity quickly. Currently, there are roughly 53,000 of these boats working in the inshore area. Purse seining was first used to catch pelagic shoaling fish in the 1970s, including mackerel and sardines. In order to pass appropriate legislation, the model bill was distributed to all marine states and union territories in 1979.

Under the Indian Fisheries Act of 1897, many state governments have published laws for the management and conservation of fisheries.

Need of Fisheries Legislation

The urgent need to implement legal measures to safeguard the fisheries resources and the widespread killing of fish, fry, and fingerlings were both brought to the notice of the then-Indian government in 1873, which highlighted the need of fisheries regulation. The Indian Fisheries Act was passed at that time by the Indian government. Since then, other pieces of legislation have been proposed in India, including:

Indian Fisheries Act, 1897

The Act made it illegal to fish in interior and coastal waterways (up to one marine league) using disruptive techniques like dynamiting or other poisons. It was also forbidden to contaminate water with toxic substances. The creation and use of fixed engines (dams, weirs, bar pattas, etc.) for catching fish were prohibited, as were the mesh size, the size of the fish, and the catch. Additionally, fishing was prohibited for a two-year period during specific seasons and locations (declaration of closed season and sanctuaries).

Marine Fishing Regulation Acts (MFRAS)

The provision for controlling fishing and conservation actions in territorial seas These include regulating mesh size to prevent catching young fish, minimum and maximum fish sizes, regulating gear to prevent overexploitation of specific species, designating certain zones for traditional fishermen, and announcing restricted seasons. These Acts define fishing areas in territorial seas where both non-mechanized and mechanized fishing vessels may conduct their operations. Each state has a different cutoff point for shoreline distance for each category. Typically, artisanal (non-mechanized) vessels are only allowed to operate within a 5 to 10 kilometer zone.

The Marine Fisheries Act was originally passed by Kerala and Goa in 1980, then by Maharashtra in 1981, Orissa in 1982, Tamil Nadu in 1983, Karnataka in 1986, West Bengal in 1993, and Andhra Pradesh in 1994. In 2000, Lakshadweep accomplished this. The choice to close a fishing location for the season is made annually, often before or during the south-west monsoon season, unlike restrictions for fishing grounds that are established in Acts.

Maritime Zones of India (Regulations of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act, 1981

This legislation was put into place to regulate foreign fishing boats' operations within the Indian Maritime Zone. Joint ventures, chartered vessels, and bilateral or multilateral fishing access agreements can all be supported by the Act.

Any use of a foreign vessel in violation of Section 3 of the Act in a location within Indian territorial waters is punished by a maximum three-year jail sentence, a maximum rupee fifteen lakh fine, or both. Any location within India's exclusive economic zone where such a violation occurs would be subject to a fine of no more than Rs. 10 lakh. The maximum fine for violating a license is 10 lakh Indian rupees. The maximum fine for violating a permit's restrictions on the operation area or fishing technique is five lakh rupees, while in other circumstances the fine is fifty thousand rupees. Any person who knowingly hinders an authorized officer from exercising any authority granted by this Act, refuses to provide the authorized officer with reasonable facilities, or refuses to stop the vessel, produce the license, permit, log book, or other document, or any fish, fishing gear, or other equipment on board the vessel when requested to do so by the authorized officer, shall be subject to a term of imprisonment that may not exceed one year, as well as a fine.

The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

The Central Government is given the go-ahead to safeguard and enhance environmental quality, manage and lessen pollution from all sources, and forbid or impose restrictions on the construction or operation of any industrial facility for environmental reasons. Additionally, it makes it necessary for some types of development operations to complete Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). All development projects that need approval from the Ministry of Environment for environmental reasons must now hold public hearings.

Under the guidelines of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) 1991 notification was released. It describes a zoning plan to control growth inside a specified coastal region. It designates as the CRZ both the area of land between the low-tide line (LTL) and the high tide line (HTL) that is affected by tidal action up to 500 meters from the HTL. It places limitations on the establishment and growth of businesses, activities, procedures, etc. in the aforementioned CRZ. For the purpose of regulating developmental activities, the CRZ has been divided into four categories:

  • CRZ-I: It comprises places that are environmentally sensitive and significant, such as national ponds and marine parks, sanctuaries, conserved forests, wild animal habitats, mangroves, corals and coral reefs, locations adjacent to fish spawning and migration routes, and genetically diverse regions. The region between the Low Tide Line and the High Tide Line is also a part of the CRZ-I.

  • CRZ-II: It covers the already-developed regions that are near or on the seashore.

  • CRZ-III: It covers the generally unaltered regions and those that do not fall under CRZ-I or CRZ-II. These will include regions inside city borders or in other legally recognized urban areas that are not extensively built up, as well as the coastal zone in rural areas (both developed and undeveloped).

  • CRZ-IV: Coastal areas in the Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, and small islands are included, with the exception of those listed as CRZ-I, CRZ-II, or CRZ-III.

Biological Diversity Act, 2002

The Act's primary goal is to safeguard India's biological diversity. The Act calls for the preservation of biological variety, the sustainable use of its elements, and the just and equal distribution of the advantages resulting from the utilization of biological resources, knowledge, and associated issues. The establishment of National and State Biodiversity Boards is contemplated. The Act promotes conservation and includes a clause that allows for a fish population to be labeled threatened if it is being overexploited.


The policy's overall objectives are to enhance exports, increase farmers' financial benefit, and provide consumers with greater alternatives while simultaneously addressing critical inadequacies in the fisheries industry. Through a variety of measures, the country's fisheries potential was intended to be maximally harnessed and captured by increasing fish output and productivity in a responsible and appropriate way. These newly developed laws and rules are creating the foundations necessary for the aquaculture and fishing industries to develop to their full potential.


Q1. What are the various fishing laws and regulations implemented in India?

Ans. The Environment (Protection) Act (1986), an all-encompassing law that contains measures for all environmental-related concerns, and the century-old Indian Fisheries Act (1897), which criminalizes the death of fish by poisoning water or by the use of explosives.

Q2. Why are fisheries laws important?

Ans. Fishing regulations exist for legitimate reasons. All have the goal of preserving and enhancing fish populations. Fisheries biologists examine bodies of water to assess fish populations' size and health. Regulations are made if a fish stock has a problem in order to maintain a healthy fish population.

Q3. What are the main aims of the common fisheries policy?

Ans. The Common Fisheries Policy seeks to safeguard the ecological, financial, and social sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture. Maintaining employment and the sector's economic viability are also important.

Q4. Who is the father of Indian fisheries?

Ans. Mr. James Hornell was called the "Father of Fisheries in India."

Updated on: 01-Feb-2023

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