Fishing in Pakistani waters
FISHERIES especially in developing countries like Pakistan provides jobs and food, sustain economic growth, and support the well-being of communities attached to this business.
Billions of people especially in the world’s poorest countries rely on fisheries to earn bread and butter.
World Bank report estimates that in 2030, 62 percent of the fish will be farm-raised to meet growing demand from regions such as Asia, where roughly 70 percent of fish will be consumed.
In Pakistan, a large proportion of fish landed in the coastal area is domestically consumed by local communities.
Nevertheless, domestic marine fish consumption has steadily increased from 11 percent in 1973 to 20 percent in 1977 and reached 30 percent with the quantity of 50,000-60,000 tons in 1985.
Pakistan’s per capita fish consumption was recorded 1.9 kg per person in 2011 and the number reached 2.0 kg per person annually in 2015.
Pakistan’s fisheries sector started from scratches and the marine fish catch was only 33,000 tons at the time of independence.
During the first decade (1950-1960), the highest quantity of overall annual fish landing was recorded at 72,130 tons in 1956.
In 1958, the first fish harbor was constructed in Karachi and fish capture jumped to 71,430 tons in 1960.
The number of annual fish capture production increased throughout the Ayub era from 65,730 tons in 1961 to 153,900 tons in 1970.
According to FAO, the annual fish capture production in Pakistan remained fluctuating from 1971 to 1980 but it doubled during the next decade (1981-1990).
The production increased from 281,976 tons (1981) to 436,392 tons in 1990.
During the seventh and eighth five-year plan, annual Pakistani fish production fluctuated from 463,922 tons in 1991 to 573,568 tons in 2000.
Unfortunately, EU Food and Veterinary Organization (FVO) banned Pakistani fish exports to EU markets in 1997.
EU ban hit us below the belt and the total share of Pakistani seafood export to the Europe market became zero, the share of Japan was also reduced resultantly.
Thus, Pakistan shifted its focus to other regions of the world and China, UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia became new markets for Pakistani fish.
Now, with 200 nautical miles’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (approximately 240,000 km2), annual fish catch of Pakistan is estimated at 500,000 tons annually and the country has four fish harbors and nine landing jetties in Sindh and Balochistan provinces.
However, Karachi fish harbor is the biggest of all and handles over 80 percent of industrial fishing fleets.
Pakistan coast has many species namely gastropods, mollusk, decapods, and crustaceans.
400 marine fishes and rich fauna of shrimp were identified in the coastal waters of Pakistan.
Out of these 400, more than 250 commercially important demersal fish species, 50 small pelagic fish species, 15 medium-sized pelagic species, 20 large pelagic fish species, 15 species of shrimp, 12 species of cephalopods, and 5 species of lobster found along the coast of Pakistan.
16 species of commercially important bivalve mollusks have been identified on the west bay of Gwadar.
Mullet, silver whiting and small-sized demersal fishes especially juveniles of estuarine fishes are harvested in the creek area of the Indus river.
The estuarine delta of the river Indus is rich with finfish, shrimp, and other marine life. Catla, Rohu, Mrigal, grass carp, and silver carp are the main species of warm water.
Overall, Pakistan has recorded more than 500 species of fish belonging to Sardine, Shark, hilsa, mackerel, butterfish, pomfret, sole, sea bream, tuna, jewfish, and catfish, eel fish, shrimps, crabs, and lobsters.
Only 100 species (mainly shrimp, Indian mackerel, ribbon-fish, tuna, sole, and crab) are exported and Pakistan exported 394.217 million USD of fisheries products to the global markets in 2017 higher by 21.35 percent or 69.348 million USD as compared to the seafood export in 2016.
Pakistan ranked 28th among fishing nations in terms of production and 50th in terms of export earnings.
Fish and fishery products are processed and exported to over 50 countries now.
New culture techniques are being introduced in some regions of Pakistan to increase the production of economically valued species.
KP, AJK (Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan mostly engage in culturing Salmo trutta and Rainbow trout.
Although, there is significant inland aquaculture (freshwater farming) is present in Pakistan but mariculture is still not practiced seriously.
Pakistan has great potential to start maricultural activities in untapped niches like mud crab, blue swimmer crab, jellyfish, other shellfish, shrimp and fish oils.
Pakistan can introduce cage fishing in many areas, through which fish can be hatched easily in the natural environment.
According to experts, cage farming can be done by a landless farmer and it’s less capital-intensive.
The system is already popular in countries like Norway, Chile, India, and China because of technological advancement.
Secondly, many countries in the world are using rice crop to produce fish because rice crop needs a certain level of water to grow and this water level is good enough to fulfil the demand for certain kinds of fish as well.
So, a big difference can be created by thinking a little bit differently, creatively, and acting wisely.
It is the high time to stand up and stop the depletion of our resources, to save the blue economy.
Pakistan can export unique breeds of fish taken through mariculture to China and to the entire world because CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) has made it easier for us.
—The writer is contributing columnist.