Fishing boat operators have appealed to the Fisheries department to roll back its recent order hiking the licence fee of small boats to ensure the financial viability of operating them, which are a means of livelihood to thousands of small-time fishermen in the State. All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators’ Association general secretary Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal said small fishing boats, measuring 35 to 45 feet and jointly owned by four to five fishermen, were gradually converted into mechanised vessels once they were outmoded. These boats are then fitted with 100 to 120 HP engines to venture into waters between 12 nautical miles.

The boats are operated by the owners themselves. They venture out on a daily basis and return with small quantities of catch, enough to sustain their daily lives. These boats, numbering around 200 now, are operated by traditional fishermen. The licence fee for such boats is at par with big fishing boats. Earlier, the annual licence fee was ₹2,700 annually. Now, rate has been hiked to ₹26,700, an increase of 1,000%.

The boat owners have also been ordered to pay ₹90,000 in case of late payment of licence fee. This new step by the department is uncalled for, financially unviable, and spells the death knell for boats, said Mr. Kalapurackal. Boat operators said the department should take a look at the fee and licence rates in other States. They allow concessions up to ₹1 lakh in sales tax on diesel for fishing boats every year.