Pakistan’s fisheries and aquaculture constitute an integral component of agriculture, providing employment, food and nutritional security to people, particularly to the rural poor. Pakistan earned US$250 million from exports of fish and fishery products last year. Pakistan, having 1,120 km of coastline and inland water reserves are 3,102,408 ha, respectively. The major fish harbors of Pakistan are Karachi Fisheries Harbor, Korangi Fish Harbor, Pasni Fish Harbor and Gwadar Fish. Karachi Fisheries Harbor handles about 90 percent of fish and seafood catch with 95 percent of its fish products exports from Pakistan. Pakistan fish production mostly comes from capture fishery. In 1951, fish production was 24,451 MT, which was lowest whereas the highest capture production was in 1999 as 654,530 MT, considered as the peak capture fisheries production in the history of Pakistan.
Fishing is the oldest and most important livelihood option for the inhabitants of the coastal line from time immemorial. This natural resource along with the marine environment provides livelihood and employment opportunities for the coastal people and others by way of indirect employment of the coastal population. Fisheries sector is remarkably booming around the globe via various opportunities and self-employment with passage of time. In 2017, share of aquaculture was over 100 million tons i.e. USD 150 billion. Livelihood of almost 60 million people in the world are directly depend upon capture fisheries, while 20 million people are engaged in fish/shellfish farming. China is the world’s largest producer, processor, consumer and exporter of seafood. In addition, 35 percent of the seafood production exclusively comes from China. It is reported that about 13 million people are engaged in fisheries industry in China. In Asia, fishermen and fish farmers are totaled as 22 million and 20 million, respectively. However, compared to other Asian nations, contribution in fisheries sector via various factors is gradually changing in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s seafood exports has dropped by 10 percent in the first quarter of 2019-20 and it may drop further as trawlers and other boat owners have stopped going for fresh catch of fish and shrimps. 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. Out of 2,000 fishing trawlers, some 20-30 are now in the high seas.
The employment ratio in fisheries sector is around 5 lacs directly and 7lacs indirectly, making almost 1 percent of national labor force. Pakistan’s commercially important marine fish fauna consists of about 250 demersal fish, 15 species of shrimp, 50 small, 15 medium and 20 large pelagic fish, about 12 squid/octopus/cuttlefish and 5 lobsters species. In addition, the freshwater fauna comprises of more than 200 fish species including (20 commercial species) and 35 shellfish. Pakistan is the first country in north Indian Ocean region, whose case for extension of continental shelf has been recently approved by UN. The fisheries sector of Pakistan, can play substantive role in alleviating poverty, accomplishing food security but its contribution in economy is very less.
Fisheries currently contribute only 0.4 percent to the GDP, and the sector’s approximately US$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. Total marine and inland fish production is estimated at 482,000 metric ton, out of which 338,000 metric ton is from marine waters and the remaining catch came from inland waters. Pakistan’s major buyers are China, Thailand, Malaysia, Middle East, Sri Lanka and Japan. 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.
Even though production has increased over time, such a growth does not reflect the economic development of the fishing community as almost all of them are living below the poverty line. The fishers’ daily income is found to be less and it is dependent upon the catch, which is not regular and steady (varies season to season). In addition, inadequate infrastructure facilities and low profitability affect their performance and involvement in other economic activities.Daily income of the fishers is very less and it varyas seasonality exists in fishing. Fishing is considered a low income activity because of its social and economic backwardness. Since fishers are fully engaged in fishing related activities and their migration to other fields of work is rather difficult.
The importance of fisheries as a source of nutrition, employment, and income for many of the world’s coastal and rural poor is often not fully appreciated by the policymakers in Pakistan. In particular, the contributions of small-scale fishing to the livelihood strategies of millions of households in coastal and rural communities and the role they can play in food security and poverty alleviation are often ignored in fisheries planning. It is said that the growing threat to sustainable fisheries is because of overfishing, and environmental degradation thus it has become a matter of survival for thousands of workers in the capture fishery value chain.
Because of this lack of data, the relative contributions of different fisheries subsectors, both harvest and postharvest, have not systematically been analyzed and evaluated. This data deficit can be attributed to several causes. Catching operations are highly dispersed, and collection of comprehensive catch information has become a challenge. The variety of species and products and the means of counting or measuring production at point of harvest or first sale present substantial technical problems (such as shell on/off, gutted, whole, dried, or salted). Illegal and deliberately unreported fishing is ubiquitous. Waste and discarding can account for over half of a catch. The relationships between catches and economic returns are complex. Although difficult to collect, these basic production and economic information requirements are essential for policy and planning. The deficiencies are an important contributor to underinvestment in the sector, especially small-scale and subsistence fisheries in Pakistan.
As a matter of fact, Pakistan capture fishery is decreasing, which is not sufficient to meet the fish demand. Pakistan fisheries production and it s exports can be developed from coastal region trough cultivate some marine commercial fish, shellfish and bivalve. Many steps have been taken by the previous governments for the utilization of this opportunity, but those steps were not enough to establish marine aquaculture. Fish farming might become an important commodity but for that government should have to take certain measures.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can be the best opportunity where it can be used for the development of Sindh and Balochistan coast in Pakistan. Government should initiate a project with the collaboration of fisheries department for the establishment of marine aquaculture farming in the coastal areas to fulfill the demand of seafood and extend the trade between each other. Pakistan fisheries department should make an institution under the provincial administration that particularly focuses on aquaculture. Aquaculture department should engage all other departments of fisheries. This department should be responsible for the development of fish and shell-fish hatcheries, public farms, training centers and transformation and implementations of latest farming technologies at specific areas across Pakistan. Moreover, the department could also pay attention towards adopt pen, cage, tidal-ponds and raft culture togenerate fish, Prawn, shrimp, oyster and seaweed.
The provincial government should also take steps to develop a mechanism to fund small fish farmers. Government should establish a plan to provide soft loans and grants with minimal and bearable formalities, for the sustainability of small-scale aquaculture at coastal region.
Over exploitation has caused burden on marine fishery resources. Pakistan fisheries sector lacks in proper planning and management practices, which is a prerequisite to overcome various issues especially for aquaculture development. Almost 30-35 percent of Pakistani seafood is imported by over 50 countries. Despite, fisheries sector in Pakistan is growing slowly and there is an adequate need for improvement. Aquaculture in Pakistan has immense potential for development of fisheries sector. There is enough work to be done for the development of aquaculture sector.