LAHORE, Feb 6: For the first time, the draft of ‘Inland Fisheries Policy’ has been finalised to enhance the fish seed production, supply for stock replenishment in natural resources and develop aquaculture.

Caretaker Punjab Fisheries and Forest Minister Pir Saad Ahsabuddin told Dawn that the prime objective of the draft policy was to boost inland fish production for increased domestic consumption and export in an environmentally sustainable manner through innovative measures and scientific methods.

“The policy aims at overall development of fisheries and welfare of fishermen communities/fish farmers and readers,” he said, adding that the development of aquaculture through increase in fish farming area in the private sector, especially through allotment of derelict state lands to rural folk on soft terms, and providing conditions (including financial support) were other objectives.

It is also aimed at establishing modern retail marketing infrastructure, strengthening research and training facilities for productivity enhancement per unit to satisfy the growing demand, post-harvest support and marketing through development of fish landing, handling, processing centres, storage and transportation facilities and development of aquaculture in public- and private-sectors.

There should also be an integrated approach to reservoirs, lakes, waterlogged areas and village ponds’ development of fisheries and aquaculture in rivers, canals, dams and lakes.

The draft policy says a strategy for the development of inland fisheries under Medium Term Development Framework (2005-10) may be adopted as policy options with minor changes and addition for sustainable inland fisheries development.

There is a need for a fresh sector study and installation of GIS for assessment of fisheries resources in public and private sectors besides conducting a survey of natural fisheries resources and preparation of management plan of major resources.

It also suggests establishment of a national fisheries research and training institute in Lahore and strengthening of regional training centres in all provinces, diversification of indigenous fish species and adoption of improved technology on fish nutrition\feeding, health management, fish gear\craft, handling, processing, storage and transportations.

Yet another recommendation is strengthening of fish farming extension service through provision of technical staff and other logistic support, protection and conservation of endangered fish species, establishment of reliable and effective data collection system mechanism, development of fisheries in saline and brackish water bodies, propagation of Mahasher and Trout (fish species) in semi and cold water bodies and measures to restore the income tax exemption and credit facilities on fish farming and fish product.

The investment may be achieved through provincial and federal ADP and foreign aid keeping in view the overall requirement of fisheries sector in the coming five years. The investment plan should be based on current constraints and also be objective-oriented.

To deal with the aquatic pollution, the draft policy, which will be presented to the future provincial assembly for legislation, suggests that the entry of untreated industrial effluents in the rivers should be stopped forthwith and the environment protection department should take a serious note of this.