Increase in Balochistan’s fish production
In 2012, Balochistan produced 147,000 tonnes of fish and shell fish, up nine per cent from 135,000 tonnes in 2011. Though it is the biggest-ever output, officials of fisheries department say it is half the potential fish catch of 300,000 tonnes.
Balochistan's fish catch is increasing under the provincial government’s strategy to meet growing domestic demand and export earnings. In 2012, Balochistan produced 147,000 tonnes of fish and shell fish, up nine per cent from 135,000 tonnes in 2011. Though it is the biggest-ever output, officials of fisheries department say it is half the potential fish catch of 300,000 tonnes.
They attribute the increase in fish catch to more efficient employment of 7,000 plus fishing boats, use of better fishing nets and hard work of fishermen.
Sea-cat fish, Hair-tail fish, Indian Mackerel, Sardines, Small Croaker and the most sought-after Tuna are the main fish species found in Balochistan. In 2012 their cumulative catch they made up about 50 per cent of the total fish production in the province, according to officials.
They say that more than three dozen species of fish and shell fish including shrimp and lobsters are netted in on regular basis from eight main landing sites along the coastal areas including those of Gwadar and Pasni.
“Improved security and brisk operational activities at Gwadar Port by the new government continue to facilitate fishing at these two sites,” says an official of provincial fisheries department, adding that fish catch from there during the current year is also on the rise.
In 2012, fish catch from Pasni and Gwadar was about 45 per cent of the total fish production in Balochistan.
Industry sources say fishing activities at six other main landing sites (Damb, Gaddani, Jiwani, Ormara, Pishukan and Surbandar) are also progressing well and they hope that overall 2013 fish haul in the province would easily cross 155,000-tonne mark. They say that about 10 per cent of total fish catch of Balochistan is consumed within the province, another 10-20 per cent finds its way into Karachi’s main fish markets and the remaining 70-80 per cent is exported.
Provincial authorities state that on the one hand they are taking measures to enhance marine fish resource and on the other hand, they are also trying to promote farm fish production, both through existing sources and by facilitating establishment of new fish farms.
All of this is covered under a comprehensive medium-term plan for boosting fish output. Sizable investment for both improving marine and inland fish catch would be made available out of a $35.5 million Gwadar-Lasbela Livelihoods Support Project being run with financial assistance from International Fund for Agriculture Department.
Around 55,000-60,000 people in Balochistan are engaged in fishing, 60 per cent of them on permanent basis, and sustaining their livelihood comes under the purview of this programme. Besides, some other programmes aimed at enhancing fish production funded by the provincial and federal government include construction of fish landing jetties and harbour facilities at Damb, Jiwani, Pishukan and Surbandar. Establishment of fish processing plant at Pasni is another project of this category.
With a coastline of 750km, marine fishing in Balochistan has eight main landing sites, or the areas from where fish is caught, and 30 other smaller sites. Bulk of fish catch is from marine resources and fresh water fish makes up just six per cent of the overall fish production. Efforts are being made to increase production of fresh water fish at small dams and open ponds of water.
Promotion of dedicated fish farms is another area where recently some enterprising local people have made some investment and are waiting for the government support. “We’ve been involved in fish farming in Balochistan for the last two, three years,” says Murshid Ali, a Karachi-based businessman who runs multiple fish farms in Balochistan.
“I had set up the first farm with just half a million rupees. That’s the minimum amount one needs to start this business,” he says, adding that the number of his fish farms has now risen to three. He says half a dozen types of fishes are breeding in his fish farms but laments that except for some technical help from the provincial Fisheries Department, official support is lacking. Officials of Fisheries Department say they are providing comprehensive knowledge and technical know-how to intending fish farmers about the fish species that can be bred in fish farms, environmental requirements conducive to their farming and typical meals for each type of fish.
They stated that Pakistan needs to learn a few lessons in inland and farm fish production from countries like India, Bangladesh and Myanmar where fish catch has grown phenomenally in recent years. Exchange of visits of local fish farmers and their counterparts in these countries can help promote fish farming in Balochistan.
As compared to fresh water fish and farm fish, potential for production growth is many times more in case of marine fish in Balochistan. Quick exploitation of this potential is hitting snags primarily because of over-fishing by local fishermen without any substantial increase in biomass or total fish stock.
Illegal and unreported fishing by large vessels that pass through Balochistan coastline is another impediment. They say that temporary bans on fishing in breeding season and faster efforts to keep fish-holding waters from being contaminated are two policy responses for stock of fish to rise.
In order to stop foreign vessels from fishing illegally, international marine affairs authorities are being invited to probe the issue and take corrective measures.
Marine fish catch can be improved by augmenting fishing boats, training fishermen on best practices of maximising per-visit fish haul, improving on-boat preservation of fish and investing in fishing nets and gears. All this requires financial resources.
Similarly, establishment of modern fishing farms, proper upkeep of seed fish, manufacturing of fish meal and research on breeding techniques, all are money matters.
“Part of that money is being arranged from international institutions and out of annual development plans of the provincial and federal government,” says a senior official of Balochistan’s Fisheries Department. “But a great part of it must come from the private sector, chances for which are promising.”
Pakistan’s seafood exports rose 34 per cent to $85 million in Q1FY14. If the growth trend is sustained, big profit-making fishing companies would likely invest in areas like marine fish hauling and fish farming.