India’s fishing and aquaculture sectors have received exemptions to national lockdown measures imposed by the federal government in March to contain the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
On 10 April, Indian Ministry of Home Affairs issued an addendum to its consolidated guidelines dated 24 March, announcing the lifting of restrictions for the fishing and aquaculture industry.
Under the new order, operations including feeding and maintenance, harvesting, processing, packaging, cold chain, sale and marketing, hatchery, feed plants, and commercial aquaria are no longer banned during the lockdown.
The government also lifted restrictions on the movements of fish, shrimp, and other seafood products, as well as on workers in the fishing and aquaculture sectors and related industries.
The industry, however, must strictly apply certain lockdown measures such as social distancing and proper hygiene practices in their operations.
“It will be the responsibility of the head of the organization [or] establishment to ensure compliance of such norms. The district authorities will ensure strict enforcement,” the ministry said.
A trader in Gujarat state confirmed to SeafoodSource over the weekend that all restrictions on the sector have been lifted following the central government’s order.
“Yes, it is true. But these days many fishermen will not go because this season is almost over,” he said.
The latest order was issued as strict measures imposed during the 21-day lockdown have caused massive disruptions to the flow of essential goods, including seafood, in India. Clarifying that some industries are both vital to the national interest and able to operate within procedural protocols to prohibit the spread of the virus, Home Affairs Ministry Secretary Shri Ajay Kumar Bhalla sent a communication to relevant authorities to clarify categories of essential items that are exempted from the lockdown measures, the ministry said in a statement on 3 April.
A ban on most forms of transportation and the shutdown of ice factories, fishing ports, and processing plants as a result of the lockdown had made it impossible for fishermen to sell or stock their goods. As a result, fishermen in the Raigad district of Maharashtra state had to dump around 100,000 metric tons (MT) of wild-caught seafood back into the sea, The Hindu BusinessLine reported on 30 March.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to announce on 14 April a possible extention for the current 21-day lockdown, The Hindu BusinessLine reported 13 April.
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