IN many parts of the world, fisheries provide food security and generate more foreign exchange earnings than the revenues earned from any other traded food commodity such as rice, cocoa, coffee or tea. Fisheries is also an important source of livelihood for the coastal inhabitants in Pakistan. Inland fisheries is also very important source of animal protein. The nutritional value of fish is very high, with a protein content of 15-20 per cent, high amounts of vitamin A and phosphorous, low cholesterol content and many other useful dietary supplements.
This sector witnessed a growth of 2.1 per cent during 2004-2005 as compared to two per cent during 2003-2004. Fish and fish preparations are among top 20 export items and the second among primary commodity category exports after rice.
During the year 2004, a total of 90,225 metric tons of fish and fishery products were exported, earning Rs7.6 billion. The countries to which fish was exported included Belgium, China, UK, UAE, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Spain, Germany, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, France, Italy, USA, Singapore and Bahrain etc.
In 2004, the total fish production was 573500 M. tons of which, 403000 M tons was marine catch and remaining 170500 M tons production came from inland waters. The total number of persons engaged in fisheries during 2003 was 294,673,Out of which 138,072 persons (47 per cent) were engaged in marine sector and 156,601 persons (53 per cent) in inland fisheries.
Pakistan has a considerable resources i.e. 0.25 million sq km of marine and approximately 8.6 million ha of inland waters consisting of rivers/ streams (3102408 ha), canals/drains/abandoned canals (346803 ha), lakes (127109 ha), dams/reservoirs (195670 ha), waterlogged areas (more than 3031600 ha), deltaic Area (700000 ha), flood water areas (1000000 ha), fish farms (60230 ha) etc.
Although the aquaculture has been growing at a good pace but in-depth gaze clearly indicates that it takes only around one per cent of the total resources while the waterlogged areas make 56 per cent followed by flood water areas (18 per cent).
Although the waterlogged areas which are considered a threat to the agriculture, they do have a hidden potential for use in aquaculture. Careful planning is needed for judicious use of such huge low utilized areas for productive fish farming.
The country’s commercially important fish fauna comprise of some 250 demersal fish, 50 small pelagic, 15 medium-sized pelagic and 20 large pelagic fish including tuna spp. In addition, there are 15 commercial species of shrimp, 12 of squid/cuttlefish/octopus, and five of lobster. Whereas freshwater nurtures more than 200 species and 35 of crustaceans including prawns & crabs.
According to various surveys carried out in the continental shelf area to explore fishery resources, Pakistani waters provide a potential sustainable yield of around 1.0-1.4 million tonnes per annum from marine sources alone whereas the most extensive riverine irrigation system provides a wide network of canals, lakes, ponds, marshes, waterlogged areas, natural depressions, dams etc covering more than eight million hectares, has an immense potential to produce high stocks of fish.
FAO’s World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2004 indicates that “the world marine fish production from capture was 87 million tonnes in 2000, which decreased to about 84 million tonnes in 2001 and was constant in 2002 but was estimated to fall by more than minus one per cent in 2003”. The same situation prevailed in Pakistan too, the fish production from marine as well as inland fishery has been decreasing or is stagnant except for a little rise during 1999 (654530 tonne). This situation requires that necessary steps are taken to enhance fish production from the existing resources on one hand and explore new ways to get additional production through aquaculture, on the other.
Pakistan has a sizeable area of land and water suitable for the fisheries development along the coastline, in the estuarine areas and in the flood plains and, as such, prompt attention is needed for planning on priority basis and make vigorous efforts to enhance fish production.
In this context as a result of detailed survey of the sector, following recommendations have been prepared : * Intensive pond culture; development of pen culture, cage culture and catfish; introduction of Tilapia (monosex) culture;invertebrate culture: prawn/shrimp/crab etc. * Integrated fish farming with poultry, cattle and crops like rice should be encouraged as it suits our socio-economic circumstances ;improvements in post-harvest technology; value additions for better export earnings; food safety measures as per principles of HACCP in order to capture higher portion of foreign markets and enter the competitive environment under WTO. * Soft, small and medium loans (microfinance programme) with easy accessibility to aquaculturists and fishermen; cluster development of aquaculture along the coast with provision of all the basic amenities and allotment of land to the solid investors with time bound T.O.R; effective extension services and quality assurance; tax holiday for aquaculture industry and processing zones; aquaculture be brought under a code of practice in line with FAO’s “Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries”.
All this can not be achieved without capacity-building of concerned institutions for which following recommendations are presented
* Organizational structure of fisheries institutions especially in the provinces be strengthened and widened for specialized working; the R&D wings in the fisheries departments are not commensurate with the needs of the sector and need to be upgraded and streamlined.
* Infrastructure facilities like hatcheries, nurseries, soil/water testing and disease diagnostic laboratories, extension/support centres, vehicles for mobility, and construction of small jetties and processing plants need to be established along the coast, rivers and inland lakes along with allied facilities of cold storage, fish carrying boxes, insulated transportation vehicles etc.
* Intensive training programmes be launched for human resource development for which foreign training be arranged for fisheries managers/trainers and the fisheries training facilities be functionalized to the maximum capacity and multifaceted working for training of farmers and fishermen.
* To make the idea more fruitful, aquaculture development authorities may be established with clear mandate of aquaculture development in the inland and coastal areas. Such authorities should be equipped with effective extension tools and a committed team with strategy to achieve the set targets in stipulated time frame.