State of fishery in Pakistan
By Nasir Hussain
FISHERY AND fishing industry plays a significant role in Pakistan economy. With a coastline of about 814 km, the country has enough fishery resources that remain to be developed.
Fishing industry is managed by the Fisheries Development Commissioner (FDC) under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MFAL). FDC is responsible for policy, planning and coordination with provincial fisheries departments and other national and international agencies such as Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission. Some universities in the country are also involved in basic fisheries research
Fishing is one of the oldest occupations.
Fishery potential in Pakistan
Pakistan is endowed with rich fishery potential. It is located in the northern part of the Arabian Sea and has a coastline of about 1,120 km with a broad continental shelf and its exclusive economic zone upto 200 nautical miles. Total production from inland and marine waters is approximately 0.60 million tons.
Pakistan has many marine and inland fishery resources. The potential was estimated at 1 million tons per year from the marine subsector alone. The commercially important resources include near 250 demersal fish species, 50 small pelagic fish species, 15 medium-sized pelagic species and 20 large pelagic fish species. In addition, there are also 15 commercial species of shrimp, 12 of cephalopods and 5 of lobster.
The effect of the Indus River Delta on the marine resources of the coastline of Sindh is substantial, as this river system has been transporting enormous quantities of nutrients and sediment to the continental shelf for centuries. Pakistan has an extensive inland water areas system which is mainly dominated by the Indus River. These water bodies, depending on their type, possess varying potential for development of the inland and aquaculture subsectors.
Fishery provides employment to about 300,000 fishermen directly. In addition, another 400,000 people are employed in ancillary industries. The fisheries sector as a whole contributes to about 1 per cent to the countrys GDP and provides jobs for about 1 per cent of the countrys labour force. It is also a major source of export earning. In July-May 2002-03 fish and fishery products valued at $117 million were exported from Pakistan. The federal government is responsible for fishery of Exclusive Economic Zone of Pakistan.
Pakistans imports of fish are negligible, whilst the value of exports of fishery products was about $196 million in 2006. It contributes only 0.3 per cent to GDP. During 2003 – 2004, 104 937 tons of fish and fishery products valued at $156 254 million were exported.
There are 29 fish processing units in Pakistan with storage capacity of 10,000 tons, out of these 25 units are located in Karachi.
The marketing chain for fish is more or less similar to those of other agricultural commodities. Products are sold into the market to wholesalers and then onto retailers and end consumers through agents working on commission basis. Farmed fish tend to be marketed either at the farm gate, through middle men or during open auction where ice-packed fish sent to fish markets after harvest were sold. Buyers can be members of the public, retailers, wholesalers, agents for processing plants or exporters. Fish markets are very common in Sindh, at selected locations in Punjab; all markets are under the control of the local administrations.
Rohu (Labeo rohita) has a substantial local market; good market size is usually 2 kg+ up to a maximum of 3 kg. Prices tend to decline when the fish is more than 3 kg in weight; other factors include freshness of the fish and the supply/demand situation in the market. Best prices are achieved during the winter months. Carp price ranges from $ 1.5 – 2.0 per kg in local markets.
Local consumers generally prefer freshwater fish because of their familiarity with river and inland farmed fish as well as the fresh condition of the product.
The only way to save the fishing industry in Pakistan is to form a separate Ministry for Fisheries. Currently, this department is a secondary part of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and almost neglected as a vestigial organ. The formation of a separate ministry for fisheries will not only ensure that whole-hearted attention is paid to this important foreign exchange earning industry of Pakistan, but will also end the disparity and disharmony found between its federal and provincial care takers who want to shift blame for their failures on others.
All brands exported should be registered with the government and only those brands that are pre-inspected for quality by the authorities at all stages of its production should allowed to be exported.
Most of the fishery units are obsolete with very old machinery and rotten cold store insulation. The equipment used for essential fast freezing to preserve export products and to extend their shelf life are in poor shape and their function is non-uniform and sub-standard.