The Coastal Aquaculture Authorities Act was born on 23rd June, 2005. On 11th December, 1996, a historic decision was passed by the Supreme Court in a case regarding setting up of Shrimp farms in coastal areas. Setting up shrimp culture ponds in the Coastal Regulation Zones and also within 1000meters of the Chilka and Pulika lakes was prohibited by the Court. The Court also ordered that an authority should be formed to conserve the ecologically fragile coastal areas, sea shores, etc., and also to expressly deal with shrimp farms in coastal states and union territories. Thus came the Act and was passed with the purpose of establishing a body to control and regulate coastal aquaculture activities and for other matters similarly related. The Act contains six chapters and extends to all areas declared as ‘coastal regulation zones’ under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (Department of Environment, Forests and Wildlife) Act, 1991 and also other such areas notified by the Central Government in the Official Gazettes. It gives the Central Government power to take necessary measures for the protection of coastal areas and thus ensure that coastal aquaculture activities are conducted without any harm to the coastal environment and also the livelihood of people living in these areas.

According to this Act a Central Aquaculture Authority should be set up by the Central Government at a place it deems fit. It should consist of a Chairperson who is or was the Judge of a High Court, 5 members who are experts in various fields of coastal ecology and aquaculture, 4 members to represent the coastal states and one member secretariat. Sec 11 of the act states the functions of this Authority. It requires to regulate constructions and operations of aqua-cultural farms in coastal regions; to inspect these farms and determine their environmental impact; to register coastal aqua-cultural farms; to eliminate farms that are causing environmental pollution and degradation; and to conduct any other functions prescribed.

The Aquaculture Authority has also constituted State Level Committees (SLCs) and District Level Committees (DLCs). Farmers should first apply with the DLCs, and after verification of the same, these applications will be forwarded to the SLCs. When convinced the SLCs will recommend them for registration to the Authority. This Authority comes beneath the administration of the Ministry of Agriculture.

India is a member of various International Agreements such as the Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia and the Pacific (NACA), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It has also signed the Bio-safety Protocol. India has also contributed immensely to many of these conventions and treaties.

According to Part IVA of the Constitution, it is the Fundamental Duty of every citizen to protect and nature the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures. Also, the state have the authority to formulate laws in relation to a number of subject-matters, which includes water (i.e. water supplies, irrigation and canals, drainage and embankments, water storage and water power), land (i.e. rights in or over land, land tenure, transfer and alienation of agricultural land), fisheries, as well as the conservation, protection and development of the stock and the prevention of animal diseases.

Critics contend that the enactment of this Act and the constituting of an authority has lead to a reduction in livelihood options and also permits degradation of environment as no attention is paid to the precautionary and polluter pays principles. However, this is not true. The very purpose of setting up such an authority was to protect the coastal ecology. Also, International Conventions on aquaculture work on the basis of the Polluter Pays Principles.

India’s aquaculture production may be categorized into two sections; freshwater and brackish water. As India is a peninsula, a major population depends on fishing for its livelihood. Also, for a large crowd, sea food is a part of their daily diet. Therefore, aquaculture is a most sought after business. At the same time, it is important to make sure that for the needs of the humans, mother earth is not compromised on.