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Fisheries sector in Pakistan

In 2001, total world production of fisheries was reported to be 130.2 million tons, of which 37.9 million tons was from aquaculture practices and 92.3 million tons from capture fisheries production. China was the leading producer with 42.6 million tons (comprising of 16.5 million tons of capture fisheries and 26.1 million tons of aquaculture production). Hence, China’s share in total world fish production is 33% and in aquaculture production it is 69%.

In parallel with the increase in production, international trade has continued to grow, and at an accelerating rate in recent years. (Source: FAO)

About 38% of world fish production is traded internationally. In 2001, total exports of fish and fishery products were US$ 55.9 billions in value terms.

Developing countries, as a whole, supplied slightly more than 50%. Shrimp is the main fish commodity traded in value terms, accounting for about 19% of the total value of internationally traded fishery products. (Source: FAO)

In 2001, more than 80% of the total world import value was concentrated in developed countries, in particular in Japan, the USA and in several EU countries.
Japan was the major importer accounting for about 23% of total import value. USA was the second main importer with a share of 17%, followed by Spain, France, Italy, Germany and the UK. (Source: FAO)

About 74 percent of world fish production is used for direct human consumption, whereas the remainder (about 26 percent) is utilized for various non-food products, mostly for conversion to fishmeal and oil.

As a highly perishable commodity, fish has a significant requirement for processing. More than 60 percent of total world fisheries production underwent some form of processing. The most important of the fish products destined for direct human consumption was fresh fish (a share of 53.7 percent), followed by frozen fish (25.7 percent), canned fish (11.0 percent) and cured fish (9.6 percent).

With these overall volumes and trade figures in mind, let us look at Pakistan. We have a total coastline of 1,090 km and a total fishing area of approximately 300,000 sq. kms. Pakistan’s fishing waters are termed as highly rich in marine life with a vast variety of species having commercial value. However, this potential is not reflected in the export earning from fisheries sector. The exports of “Fish and Fish Preparation” were at $134.5 million (with a volume of 93,214 tons) in 2002-03. (Source: EPB)

This situation was mainly attributed to unorganized nature of private sector, lack of focus in Government policies and little institutional investment (in public and private sector projects) in this sector.

Pakistan’s exports of fishery products stand at about 0.25% of world exports. A rough estimate based on maximum sustainable yield figures, existing value addition, and foreign benchmarks, puts our total export potential from this sector at around US$ 1.0 billion from existing natural resources. If we include the high potential area of aquaculture, our fisheries sector can yield even higher export earnings.

Pakistan’s domestic consumption is termed as one of the lowest in the world, at 1.6 kg per person per year (compared to world average of 16.2 kg per person per year). Hence, most of the produce is exported. There is a great dependence on a few species for exports, with very little value addition. Most of the fish catch is from marine sources, which comprises about 70% of total fish exports. Pakistan exports fish mainly to Europe, US, Japan and Middle-Eastern countries.

On the coast of Pakistan, there are more than 30 species of shrimps, 10 species of crabs, 5 species of lobster and about 70 commercial species of fish including sardine, Hilsa, shark, Mackerel, Butterfish, Pomfret, Sole, Tuna, sea bream, Jew fish and Cat Fish, Shark, and Eel. Marine fishing is undertaken from right beyond the coast to 200 nautical miles into the sea. The distance has been divided into two broad categories for fishing known as: (1) Coastal water fishing, and (2) Deep-sea fishing. Deep Sea is further divided in two zones. The distances specified are: up to 12 nautical miles termed as coastal water fishing, 12 to 35 nautical miles is Zone I and 35 to 200 nautical miles is Zone II. Coastal water fishing is done in the villages along the coast that are predominately inhabited by fisherman whose main livelihood is fishing.

Major share of marine catch is within 12 nautical miles from the coast, as most of the boats are small with little catching and preserving equipment on board. This reduces the catch per boat and therefore increases the cost of fish per kg. Zone I (12 to 35 nautical miles) although reserved for local fisherman remains under-utilized for paucity of modern boats equipped with necessary gadgets for catch and preservation. The area between 35 to 200 nautical miles declared as Zone II is reserved for foreign as well as Pakistani vessels, which operate under license from the Government of Pakistan. The catch in zone II is very nominal and therefore it remains to be exploited. Foreign vessels have been found to operate in Zone II without license from the Government and even enter into Zone I in with collaboration with local firms.

The fisheries sector in Pakistan offers direct employment to over one million people, most of which work as fishermen. There are a large number of fishermen’s villages all along Pakistan’s coast line where fishing is primary source of earnings for centuries. The stagnant fisheries sector directly affects standards of living of this community. In addition, these large socioeconomic groups face economic survival problems due to marine resource mismanagement, decreased landing figures and problems faced by seafood processors (who buy their produce) in export marketing because of poor quality product.
Given the changing eating habits and depleting natural resources, world seafood market is termed as mainly “sellers market”. The focus in fishing is shifting from already exploited regions to under-exploited areas because of conservation and environment pressures. Despite such favorable circumstances, Pakistan’s seafood exports have actually decreased during the past decade, with 1992 showing highest figures, i.e., US$ 181 million.

The main problems faced by Pakistan’s fishing industry are technical, operational and regulatory in nature. During1999-2002, SMEDA worked for the uplift of the fishing industry through a number of measures. First it carried out a sector study identifying the key issues being faced by the industry. Then SMEDA worked closely with Karachi Fish Harbour Authority (KFHA) and Fishermen’s Cooperative Society (FCS) in the cleanup and improving hygienic conditions of the Fish Harbour, encouraging the fishermen to use modern on-boat storage and handling techniques, boat modification, training of fishermen, etc.
By adopting modern techniques of fishing and fish processing, Pakistan can exploit the huge opportunity that exists in the fisheries sector.
(The writer is Director, Special Projects Division, SMEDA.). 

Courtesy: The Nation;

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