Fishing in Pakistan

Ismat Sabir

Seafood exports, already down by 11.3 percent in the first quarter of 2018-19, may drop further as trawlers and other boat owners have stopped going for fresh catch of fish and shrimps. At issue is their opposition to the Deep Sea Fishing Licensing Policy 2018.
Pakistan is currently dependent on the arrival of boats and trawlers which are returning to the harbor. Otherwise none of the boat owners are going for fresh catch, said President Pakistan Fisheries Exporters Association (PFEA), Syed Akhlaq Hussain Abidi.
Out of the 2,000 fishing trawlers, some 20-30 are now in the high seas. These vessels are scheduled to arrive in a day or two. Fish landing has fallen by 20-25 percent from October till date, Mr Abidi claimed.
Seafood Exports Plunge 11 percent to $67m in First Quarter of FY2019
Trawler owners are not going for fishing due to fear as Maritime Securities Agency (MSA) had also started implementing the new deep sea policy. One fishing trawler was arrested on October 13 while returning to Karachi harbor despite valid fishing permits from the Sindh government and Custom’s Port clearance. Country’s fish exports plunged to 28,185 ton ($67 million) versus 29,544 ton valuing $76m in same period last fiscal.
Patron Sindh Trawlers and Fisherman Association (Stofa), Sarwar Siddiqui said STOFA, PFEA and Fishermen Cooperative Society have moved to the Sindh High Court against the deep sea fishing licensing policy. Mr Siddiqui also claimed that landing of fish would almost come to a standstill in a couple of days as no new trawlers left for fishing in the past two weeks.

Marine fish is marketed as fresh, frozen, canned, cured, reduced to fishmeal, other purposes, and some retained by fishermen for their own use. The freshwater catch is marketed fresh for local consumption. Out of the total marine fish production, the percentage for human consumption ranged between 65 and 70 percent in 2006. The rest of the catch was used for other purposes, especially reduction to fishmeal.
Fish and shrimp processing is usually divided into mechanical and non-mechanical processing. The mechanical category includes freezing plants, canning, fishmeal plants and fish liver oil extraction plants. In the non-mechanical category there are dried fish, dried shrimp, shark fin, fish maw/stomach, live lobster, live crab and fish roes/ovaries. There are 27 processing plants for the production of frozen products in Pakistan, one for canning and 8 for fishmeal processing. Almost 100 percent of the frozen and canned fishery products are exported, while the bulk of the processed fishmeal is used in the country in the manufacture of poultry feed or fish feed.
The marketing chain for fish is similar to that for other agricultural commodities. Products are sold into the market to wholesalers and then onto retailers and end consumers through agents working on a commission basis. Farmed fish tend to be marketed either at the farm gate, through intermediaries or by open auction, where ice-packed fish is sent to fish markets and sold. Buyers of fishery products can be members of the public, retailers, wholesalers and agents for processing plants or exporters. Fish markets are very common in Sindh and at selected locations in Punjab. All markets are under the control of the local administrations. Most fish markets have inadequate facilities; usually they lack cold storage facilities, have poor hygienic conditions and inadequate communication links. Most aquaculture product is consumed locally.
Prices tend to decline when the fish is more than 3 kg; other factors include freshness of the fish and the supply demand situation in the market. Local consumers generally prefer freshwater fish over marine fish because of their familiarity with river and inland farmed fish, as well as the fresh condition of the product. This difference is reflected in both wholesale and retail prices, where fresh water fish is sold at a higher price than marine fish.
In the world, and hence in Pakistan, fish is considered a cheap source of protein diet. In 2000, per capita food supply from fish and fishery products (kg/person) in Pakistan was 2, in Asia was 18 and in World was 16. Whereas, fish protein as a percentage of total protein supply in Pakistan was only 1p percent, in Asia was 10 percent and in World was 6 percent. Processed fishery products can include fish meal poultry feed, aquaculture feed, fish oil, fish glue etc. Out of the total marine fish production, three percentages for human consumption ranged between 65 and 70 percent in 2006. The rest of the catch was used for other purposes, especially reduction to fishmeal. The annual per capita fish consumption in Pakistan was about 2.0 kg in 2006.
Economic Role
Fish is a source of cheap and valuable animal protein for the population, and the industry makes a major contribution to the economy of Pakistan as an earner of foreign exchange. Imports of fish are negligible, whilst the value of exports of fishery products was about USD 196 million in 2006. It contributes only 0.3 percent to overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 1.3 percent to agricultural GDP and less than 1 percent to national employment. The fisheries sector provides employment opportunities to an estimated 1.5 million individual fishermen, family members and related fishery workers, thereby providing direct support to nearly 6.0 million citizens throughout the country. In some rural areas, notably in Sindh and Balochistan, where very limited alternative sources of income are available, fishery development has contributed significantly to improved living conditions. Aquaculture is also seen as a means of filling an expected future gap between supply and demand for fish. If coastal aquaculture of high value shrimp and finfish species were to develop, export earnings would increase.
Employment in the primary sector peaked in 1997 at 416 405 fishermen, but declined to 324 489 in 2006. This declining employment is most apparent in the inland sector. The inland sector is somewhat more labor intensive and less productive 177,572 fishermen each producing an average of 0.80 ton per year compared with the more mechanized marine sector 146,917 fishermen each producing 2.59 ton per year. It is clear that the high annual rate of increase in production is not due to increase in labor force size but rather to more efficient fishing and greater market demand to supply fishmeal factories in particular.
Employment in the secondary sector processing/marketing is estimated to be around 55,000. A high proportion of those employed are women working in shrimp processing plants sorting and peeling. Women also constitute most of the labor force involved in net repair. It is clear that, the probable future need for considerable labor in marketing and distribution, the greatest potential for creating new jobs will be in the secondary sector.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that marine fishing is a significant economic activity off the coasts of Sindh and Balochistan.
AS the country’s fisheries face challenges and remain below their economic potential, a Blue Revolution has been proposed to increase fisheries’ production, and improve value-addition to drive both domestic and export oriented growth.
The time is right for Pakistan to launch the revolution suggests the World Bank, stating that such blue growth prioritizes the sustainable management of natural aquatic resources in the delivery of economic and social benefits.
The approach also aims to help workers in fisheries, aquaculture, and along the seafood value chain to act not only as resource users but to play an active role in managing natural resources for the benefit of future generations.
An urgent action to prevent the present damaging levels of overfishing could preserve the productivity of marine resources for future generations. Adoption of a national policy framework could help coordinate development, ensuring that tradeoffs are minimized.
According to the World Bank, the National Policy and Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development in Pakistan drafted during Musharraf’s era remains largely relevant, though it was not adopted at the time due to political transition.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations says that marine fishing is a significant economic activity off the coasts of Sindh and Balochistan. A marine capture fishery comprises a fleet of around 3,600 bottom trawlers from Sindh, 5,550 gillnetters working both the Sindh and Balochistan waters, and a further 20,000 smaller vessels fishing coastal waters, especially the rich Indus Delta and creek area.
World Bank Warned that Pakistan’s Major Marine Fisheries Are Either Fully or Overly Exploited
Fisheries currently contribute only 0.4 percent to the GDP, and the sector’s approximately $350 million of exports appears to be at a standstill. Comparisons to other countries in the region suggest that Pakistan is failing to fully realize the potential of its capture.
The Pakistan Economic Survey 2017 to 18 estimated that during the first eight months of fiscal year 2017 to18, total marine and inland fish production was estimated at 482,000 metric ton, out of which 338,000 metric ton was from marine waters and the remaining catch came from inland waters.
Whereas the fish production for the same period of fiscal year 2016-17 was estimated to be 477,000 metric ton in which 332,000 metric ton was from marine and the remaining was produced by inland fishery sector.
During eight months of 2017 to 18, a total of 108,262 metric ton of fish and fishery products were exported. Pakistan’s major buyers are China, Thailand, Malaysia, Middle East, Sri Lanka and Japan.
Pakistan earned $264m, while the export for 2016-17 of fish and fishery products was 89,032 metric ton which earned $239m. The export of fish and fishery products has increased by 21.6 percent in quantity and 10.5 percent in value during 2017 to 18.
The World Bank report Revitalizing Pakistan’s Fisheries says that the European Union countries, Japan, and the United States are the world’s biggest export markets for seafood, yet at present, they account for less than 3 percent of Pakistan’s fisheries export earnings about $9.3m annually.
As far as marine capture fisheries are concerned, the World Bank report warned that Pakistan’s major marine fisheries are either fully or overexploited. The major commercial fish stocks face considerable overfishing, and in some instances, are already depleted.
Aquaculture is largely concentrated in Punjab, Sindh, and to a lesser extent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan’s marine fisheries are diverse, with almost 250 demersal fish species, 50 small pelagic fish species, 15 medium-sized pelagic species, and 20 large pelagic fish species.
Much of the fish landed is intended for domestic consumption, which is highest in coastal towns and cities that have landing sites. The Indus River Delta and its associated ecosystems make the coast of Sindh the most productive region of Pakistan’s marine fisheries.
Pakistan now has more than 29,000 marine fishing vessels in total. Pakistan’s most valuable demersal fisheries resources have been declining in overall abundance since at least 1984, in some cases by 90 percent or more.
Given low per capita consumption of fish at home, exports are an important component of Pakistan’s fisheries sector. The most important export product categories are frozen fish excluding fish fillets, which account for 58 percent of export value.
Shrimp make up a further 23 percent. Exports may increase in the next few years due to the establishment of a new land trading route from Gwadar to Guangdong, China.
Imports are a relatively small but growing component of the Pakistan fisheries sector. The report suggests that Pakistan needs a review of fisheries legislation to inform the legislative and regulatory changes necessary to ensure sustainability.
At present, the fisheries industry is not itself the driving force within the fisheries value chain. Public sector organizations need to move from being doers with a central role in the industry, to facilitators helping modernize a demand led food system.
Fisheries and aquaculture in Pakistan face specific impacts from climate change. Increased intrusion of saline water in the Indus Delta is already harming fish breeding grounds. Higher temperatures are reducing river flows, further damaging habitat quality in the delta.
Projected sea level rise and increased cyclonic activity due to higher sea surface temperatures threaten mangrove areas, which are crucial to wild shrimp breeding, one of Pakistan’s largest export fisheries.
Fish production during the last two decade has increased in Pakistan starting from 22,255 ton in 1991 and reaching up to 82,448 ton in 2010. An expert on fisheries sector and environment, Omar Hayat said that during this period highest production, 93,820 ton, was observed in 1994.
Both the fish commodities, dried, salted or smoked and frozen excluding fillets and meat, also have increased in their production; however the production of latter commodity surpassed during the last five years.
Export in terms of quantity and value of the former fish commodity declined while the latter commodity increased during the same period. Import figures have shown that there is an increasing trend in the import of the latter fish commodity reflecting its potential demand in Pakistan. However, by paying more attention to fisheries sector, the country’s production and export of fish and fishery products can be increased, and the country’s economy as a whole can be boosted.
Fishery management represents an organization consist of resources, industry market which are the basic pillars of fishery sector maintenance and these factors are interconnected with each other. If there is any irregularity to manage fish resources and their management, Government has been enforced to mediate, rightly or wrongly, to fill this space.
Economically, balanced fishery management requires the revolution of common property through a restricted entry system intended to raise net benefits from the fishery. Management planning holds goals and policy objectives and the expansion of strategies to attain policy targets. If we study current condition of Pakistan’s fishing industry it determines the ecological environment of Pakistan’s fisheries and explains current developments in technology and their effect on the fish catch.
The factors contributing to growth involve government efforts, fleet expansion and development of export markets. In order to develop fisheries Pakistan should require balanced resource management. The expert asked the government that should focus on new policy which should maintain satisfactory management for the regulation of the Pakistan’s fish industry for inland fisheries and coastal and deep water fisheries.
Fishing in Pakistan is one of main source of export earnings and plays an essential role to develop national economy. Pakistan with a coast line of 814 km still has many fish species which are not used to promote fish industry at national and international market. The contribution of aquaculture is too meager as compared to fisheries. Other neighboring countries which have focused on aquaculture have taken leap forward in exports, employment generation as well income for rural communities.
According to Economic Survey of Pakistan, total fish catch during 2013-2014 increased slightly i.e. 725,000 ton-730,000 ton. More than 100,400 ton fish were exported in the same period. The volume of fish exports during 2013-2014 was 140,000-150,000 ton this was mainly due to reopening of EU market and high demand of Pakistani fish mainly in China and Vietnam. This need for Pakistani fish has boosted fishing industry.
The decline in the marine fishery is basically due to over fishing and growing human population is the main cause. With the increasing shortage of fish resources, fisheries management becomes more critical. Fish habitats have been badly affected by industrial waste overuse of reef area and sea visitors.
The current information which focuses on modeling and technical work out in other countries to fishery management tools which is supposed to be a legal approach are not being used in the country. These new modeling tools and technical innovation is required to be implemented in the country.
The existing laws on fisheries and aquaculture need to be revisited and appropriate changes made on pragmatic and implement able approach for the betterment of rural communities and conservation of the renewable fish and related consumable resources of the country.
He said fishery management laws should be of good policy and result oriented quality. Fishery laws should deal among development of fishing size, quality, banned over fishing and establish more national master management plans for off-shore fisheries and to promote coastal resources.
The inland fisheries has a great potential also which is often overlooked and of low priority by the policy makers. If Aquaculture is developed in warm waters and cold water regions it can boost exports and foreign exchange for the exchequer.
The potential of only one type of fish i.e. Trout is more than 50000-100000 metric ton per cycle worth more than half a billion dollars revenue and creating employment for the rural youth in the remote hilly rural regions of the country. Similar is the position of warm water fisheries potential of production throughout Pakistan which can also provide off farm employment and income for the rural population as well as export earnings for the country.
Pakistan economy is rural based where 70 percent of the work force is engaged in different agricultural activities. Fish Farming is a new addition of recent past of 30 to 35 years to diversification of agricultural farm activities. The growth of fish farms in Pakistan is slow as compared to the benefits which it creates in the private sector. Each Fish Farm provides employment to the house hold for different period of time with income on harvest of fish as well for family consumption.
Omar Hayat, who is served as Director Fisheries, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa termed poverty a highly complex phenomenon, which cannot be understood in purely sectorial terms. Aquaculture should not be viewed as separate technology in Agriculture sector but should be considered as one part of agricultural activities.
The agriculture with aquaculture needs: intensification, diversification, increased asset base, increased off farm income, and exit from agriculture. Diversification, which includes aquaculture, which can be considered to be the single most promising source of farm poverty reduction in the coming years in Pakistan.
Pakistan Fish Exports Up 27.94 Percent, Netting $451.026 Million in FY18
Pakistan’s seafood exports have increased 27.94 percent to 198,420 ton fetching $451.026 million for the national exchequer in fiscal year 2017-18, according to market officials.
The country’s export value increased 14.57 percent from $393.662 million off 155,091 ton in 2016-17. However, as per officials, the country’s fisheries exports declined 7.35 percent in value to $11.837 million ton in July 2018 from $12.776 million in the same month last fiscal. The quantity was down 2.87 percent to 5,452 ton from 5,613 ton.
Industry stakeholders complain that Pakistani seafood fetches lower value in the international market as the quantity of exportable fish has depleted due to various reasons, including overfishing.
Faisal Iftikhar, former president, Pakistan Fisheries Exporters Association, said, Pakistan’s fish and fish preparations exports fetch $2.27 to $2.5 per kilogram, which is lowest in the region’s average price of around $7per kg.
He blames it on the lower quality of fish meal. “Our prices show that we export more fish meal and our prices are lower than quality fish meal price, which fetches $3/kg.”
He said quality seafood stocks were depleting in Pakistani waters because of overfishing and use of destructive nets. Pakistan mostly exports to China at lower rates, although the European Union has lifted ban from two factories amid political pressure, ‘without inspecting the factories on the ground, he informed.
Revival of exports to EU had no significant impact over Pakistan’s total seafood exports, the official said, adding that only one factory exported to EU, and that too on lower prices at par with China.
China is one of the largest buyers of Pakistan’s fish and fish preparations. Other buyers include Hong Kong, Indonesia, Egypt, Middle East, UK, Thailand, South Korea, Bangladesh etc.
Capt Akhlaque, whose factory is the only one exporting seafood to EU, said, We are not in a bargaining position. India is controlling the prices, with 200 factories exporting to the European Union countries.
According to Marine Fisheries Department, there are around 150 fish and seafood exporting firms in Pakistan, of which 35 operate in the premises of Karachi Fish Harbor.
Akhlaque said commercial fish stocks had not depleted completely. When ban on fishing is fully implemented during the breeding season in June and July, better stocks develop, he said, adding that since the ban was implemented there were chances of better fishing in the current fiscal year.
Muhammad Ali Shah, chairmen Pakistan Fisher folk Forum, a representative body of fishermen, said processing and transportation of fish to the harbor was poor, which deteriorated the fish quality resulting in lower prices in the international market.
Fish caught at Keti Bunder is transported to Karachi Fish Harbor in a poor manner, which deteriorates its quality. Shah said that deep sea fishing and overfishing had affected the commercial fish stocks, which were rapidly reducing in Pakistani waters. Marine pollution and use of harmful nets are increasing the woes, he added.
The Fisheries Resources Appraisal in Pakistan Project, a Unilateral Trust Fund project of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the government of Pakistan have also pointed to depletion of seafood resources.
The overall status for all the major fish stocks of Pakistan is that they are all below target biomass levels and nine of the species groups are below the depleted threshold, said the project report.
The report said the prospects for an economically vibrant and growing fishery were poor, and reduced exports, value, and food fish production were all to be expected even as fish meal production increases.
Over fishing is the major cause behind depletion of fish resources. In the 1980s it was estimated that the fleet was approximately 6,500 vessels and it is now over 11,500. In the 1980s it was judged that 550 shrimp trawlers would be sufficient to economically harvest the shrimp. Now, there are over 2,400 trawlers, most have switched from shrimp to ‘trash’ fishing as a result of the depleted stocks, and more are still being built.
It is recommended that policy and regulatory steps be taken to reduce the fleet size overall to less than 6,000 vessels and the trawler fleet should be specifically limited to less than 600 out of the total, recommended the project findings.

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