Developing sustainablefisheriesfor blue growth

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NIGHMANA ZAFAR

OCEANIC resources have always been considered an eternal gift of nature. However, increased knowledge and scientific developments have revealed this to be a myth and mankind has realized that marine resources, although renewable, are not infinite and need to be managed properly, if their contribution to the nutritional, economic and social well-being of the future generation is to be sustained. The scenario is not different for marine fisheries sector of Pakistan. Maritime zones of Pakistan lie in the most resourceful fishing grounds of the world, but contrary to it, the contribution of marine fisheries in national economy and social development of coastal community remains insignificant. Reported GDP share of fisheries is just 0.04 per cent. The reasons are obvious; harmful practices of fishermen; lack of knowledge about modern fishing techniques and oblivion of fishers regarding sustainable use of marine resources. There are a number of environmental issues as well, which have a direct bearing on development of fisheries sector. The disposal of untreated sewage, domestic wastes andindustrial effluents into the sea, are affecting natural hatcheries in mangrove forests and other marine life in the area. These issues have adverse affects onthe quality of catch and sustainability of fishing industry. While not preserving the marine environment, we are committing a crime against our own-selves. The socio-economic losses to future generations from degradation of marine resources and natural ecosystems will be irretrievable. This will also be reflected in the loss of biodiversity, fisheries, agriculture land close to the coast, loss of livelihood and dislocation of coastal communities. Fishing has traditionally been an important economic activity in coastal areas of the country. Livelihood of large number of people dependent upon fishing. But, when compared in the context of coast to catch ratio, Sindh has always been a dominant actorinthe sector.The Balochistan coast represents 75% of the total coastline, but on average it contributes only 27% of the fish catch. This means, much of the maritime area is unexploited; not only in terms of fish catch but also with respect to potential of non-traditional species for export. The development of marine fisheries as thriving maritime industry is a gigantic task, besides curing, prevention of further damage is also urgently needed. Marine fisheries is a national asset which should not be squandered awaythroughill-advised policies and practices; but should be preserved for future generations. To take advantage of marine resources in astructured manner, it is imperative to adopt scientific knowledge and develop solutions for preservation ofthe ocean. Fishingmethods and practices should be sufficiently selective so as to minimize trash fishes and discard catch of nontarget species. Government should provide necessary support/subsidyto promote mariculture in the coastal areas. While our national thrust has primarily remained export driven but enhancing awareness about fish consumption amongstlocals can also be a significant mean to increase revenue in the industry. According to FAO sources, in Pakistan per person use of fish is about 1.8 kgs per year; which is lowest in the world. It will improve both; the local fish market as well as malnutrition and protein deficiency in Pakistanis. To achieve all this, developing greater collaboration amongst national and provincial institutions is the need of the hour. — The writer is Senior Researcher at National Centre for Maritime Policy Research.