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Tales of the fishers

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Karachi, being the only developed maritime hub along the coastal belt, houses the largest and the oldest fisheries community. Seafood industries, researchers, investors have been concentrated in and around the coastal areas of Sindh. The contribution of Sindh fisheries is immense when compared to Balochistan. But while listening to an ordinary fisherman of Baba or Bhit Island near Karachi coast, one can clearly comprehend that there is a huge communication gap between fishers and all other stakeholders, whether they are policy makers, scientists or government officials. Level of understanding, information about marine resources and knowhow about modern trends in fishing business is very low amongst the Pakistani fishermen.
The IUU fishing, the depletion of stocks, human induced environmental issues as well as implementation of regulatory frameworks/policies are some serious challenges faced by the marine fisheries sector in Sindh. However, the conversation with the representatives of Baba Island, Bhit Island, Khada market, Younasabad during the occasion of world fisheries day 2019, it has been surfaced that the issues of fishermen are different than that of policy makers and government officials. Poor socio-economic conditions, financially equity, access to the better markets and basic health and education needs are theirs concerns.
Clean drinking water is not available to them because the government installed RO plants are not operation. In Pakistan non-fishing season was introduced for catching shrimp during the month of June & July in 1983.
According to some experts, this practice has been proved to have a positive impact on the sustainability of the fisheries sector and needs to be extended to all forms of fishing in the months of June and July. It became a mandatory requirement due to unfavourable weather conditions in June-July. Fishermen find it difficult to make both ends meet during the non-fishing season.
Although Government has extended some financial assistance to the needy members of the fishing community through Zakat, but they should help them in finding alternate means of employments during banned season or may prepare them for the same through vocational training centres.
In view of the data provided Government of Sindh, Fisheries and Livestock department with respect to the facilities provided to the fishermen revealed under the available source, the fisheries department has taken some measures to provide some relief to fishermen. For instance housing has been provided through model villages, and approximately 350 houses including mosques and dispensary have built at Keenjhar Lake Thatta, Badin, Railo and Murad Shah Mian District Jamshoro and at District Sujawal. Ministry has also provided fishing boats, engines, nets, crates, ice boxes and bicycles among the fishermen of Manchar Lake, Keenjhar Lake, Chotiari Reservoirs, Coastal area of River Indus Jamshoro and Sukkur.
Fish seed stocks are regularly released in targeted areas in order to increase the fish potential for livelihood of the fishermen. During the year 2018-19 about 8.00 million fish seed was stocked in the above waters. But, unfortunately it seems that marine fisheries and challenges to the coastal communities are not on the priority list of the Government of Sindh.
As a matter of fact, sustainability of marine fishery in the province of Sindh requires improved governance mechanism and changes in the perspective of the main stakeholders. It is imperative to focus more on long-term goals. In this regard, kind of assistance offered to inland fishers should also be extended to coastal fishermen.
Further, necessary measures should be undertaken to curtail pollution from land-based and sea-based sources to ensure the development healthy oceanic environment. While emphasises should be on strict implementation with regards to use of banned nets; both at harbour by respective fish harbour authorities as well as at sea by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA).
It should be ensured that, if found, such illegal nets should be immediately destroyed or be auctioned by cutting their cod end rendering them to be ineffective for catching small fish. To address the issue of overfishing, a centralized data bank is to be maintained by Marine Fisheries Department (MFD) to regulate/monitor the number of boats operating in our waters.