Fisheries Miseries

Pakistan is the only coastal country in the world with almost zero per cent of shrimp farming.

By Faizan Usmani | October 2023

Pakistan is among the ten most vulnerable countries to climate change. The revival of the country’s struggling fishing industry necessitates a long-term programme based on planning, well-thought-out strategies, and proper homework.

As a rule, the plight of a nation is exhibited in its economic backwardness and poor socio-economic indicators. However, such deprivations become more than a disaster for a country that has been blessed with all such water resources and fertile land aplenty that can turn its never-ending miseries into a lasting felicity and help it emerge as an economically stable and prosperous country.

Despite being rich in natural and human resources, Pakistan is one of those poor countries that fall into the category of low economic growth rates, and what makes it more than a misfortune is its underutilised 1,120 kilometres of coastal belt, which is brimmed with pristine, beautiful beaches and replete with marine and inland fishery resources. Besides the elongated coastline covering Makran and Karachi coasts, Pakistan has a fishing area of nearly 300,270 square kilometres, rich in marine life and biodiversity, with untapped freshwater and marine fisheries resources and their habitat.

Situated along the coastal belts, many countries have emerged as major seafood exporters, catering to their population’s nutritional needs as well. However, in Pakistan, the situation is quite the opposite. In terms of foreign exchange earnings, the contribution of the fishing industry to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is only 0.3 per cent. With total exports of USD 196 million per annum, Pakistan’s fishing sector is able to contribute approximately 1.3 per cent to agricultural GDP and below 1 per cent to national employment.

The total fish production in Pakistan is nearly 445 thousand metric tonnes per annum, which can be increased up to 650 metric tonnes per annum in relation to existing water resources that remain largely unexploited owing to a lack of technical expertise, a real absence of technological advancements in fish and shrimp seed production and due to an insufficient infrastructure with minimum facilities available to local fishermen, says the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the United Nations.

Among the other leading factors that inhibit further growth of the fishery sector are a lack of scientific research carried out to enhance inland fish production, the use of obsolete fishing techniques and equipment as well as the lack of education in local fishermen, restricting their ability to adapt to sustainable and modern fishing methods. Currently, only four fishing harbours are fully operational across the country, while most fishing centres do not have any landing facilities. As a result, the poor handling of fish stock leads to substantial post-harvest losses and on an average, over 70 per cent of seafood gets wasted before reaching the end consumers.

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