Within India, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing typically has been viewed as a non-traditional security concern that includes food and economic security, as well as broader societal and political issues. This article argues for understanding IUU fishing in a broader and deeper way and to view this issue as a traditional security threat. Several developments merit this approach, including the threat posed by foreign fishing vessels near Indian waters. Such distant water fishing vessels have been found fishing illegally around the world. On several occasions, these vessels are present near the exclusive economic zone of other states, raising serious legal and operational questions. In turn, coastal States have shown varied responses to these vessels ranging from strengthening their maritime security framework to using force and taking military action against these vessels.
To confront these challenges, this article recommends revisiting India’s domestic legal and institutional framework on IUU fishing as well as cooperating with the relevant maritime frameworks at the regional and international level. Even though India has strengthened its legal and institutional framework to address its maritime security challenges, this article suggests that joining regimes on IUU fishing can benefit India. The Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) is one such example. The PSMA will bolster India’s attempts to fight IUU fishing by avoiding duplication of resources as well as creating a stronger framework against this threat at the regional and international levels. By revamping its domestic, regional, and international approach to recognize IUU fishing as a traditional and non-traditional national security threat, India will be better equipped to address this challenge.