Aug 31 - Sep 06, 2009

Sindh government has launched six new schemes to improve fisheries sector. The purpose of these and ongoing 17 other schemes are to enhance the production capacity of fisheries sector in the province, which accounts for main fisheries domestic and foreign trade of Pakistan. Marine and inland productions are two underlying bases of fisheries trade in the country. Of that marine production is mainly for exports besides domestic consumption, whereas inland outputs meet the local demand and that is so hardly.

"Inland production is hardly meeting local demand of fisheries, so there is no possibility that it can leave something for exports," Sindh Secretary Livestock and Fisheries told Pakistan and Gulf Economist. Dr. Laiq Ahmed said inland facilities focused on some other important aspects of the fisheries sector like research and development and breeding of aqua species, adding it was not easy to make surplus production right now.

Sindh livestock and fisheries department estimated total cost of Rs4163. 27 million for capacity building of fisheries sector. Government earmarked Rs1444.56 million for various development schemes in the fisheries sector of the province under the Annual Development Programme Financial Year 2009-10. This includes Rs272.54 million that has been allocated for rehabilitation and renovation works of Karachi Fish Harbour (KFH) under the programme while the total cost was estimated at Rs568.85 million. Last fiscal year, allocation for renovation was Rs130 million. So far, around Rs63 million has been spent on account of the scheme, it was learnt. Establishment and renovation of shades, renovation of auction halls, boats modifications, provision of fisheries ancillaries at concessionary rates, etc. are salient features of Karachi Fish Harbour's renovation and rehabilitation scheme.

This development scheme will continue until FY11. Last year allocation for this scheme was not utilized completely, said a source. He said outlays for current fiscal year had not been released. The disbursement is on quarterly basis and the delay is procedural, he confided with the scribe. After renovation and rehabilitation of KFH fisheries exports would improve, believed Secretary Livestock and Fisheries. There is a huge export potential in the fisheries sector of Pakistan. "Obviously, European Union has to review its ban after noticing the improvement," he answered to a question. It has been almost two years since EU banned Pakistan's fisheries exports to the block apparently because of unhygienic conditions of the fish harbours.

"Before EU's delegation next visit at the harbour we will improve the facility," he replied when asked about deadline of the completion of the scheme. EU delegation may visit end of this year, according to an official. "We will be able to explore other exporting destinations after that [KFH's rehabilitation and renovation]. He said marine exports still constituted a major portion of country's total agriculture exports in relative terms.

For last three years, government has been paying attention to develop fisheries sector around the province. Development funds were increased every year during the last three years. An official said the financial supports this sector received in last three years were not available in the past. Lack of government supports reflect in the poor standard of livings of people who are the driving force of fisheries sector. Living in and around dilapidated sub-urban towns and deprived of civic amenities available in urban areas, these people entrap in abject poverty.

This sector's direct workforce comprising of angler, netter maker, feeds makers, boat mechanics, and so and so forth lives in community system on Karachi's shorelines, islands, and rivers' banks. Majority of them are still employing traditional ways of fishing or methods inherited to them from their forefathers. Some of the angler communities in the vicinity of Karachi predate to 19th century. Lyari is one such oldest settlement of Karachi. Use of outdated fishing methods, no or inefficient training and development, and insufficient and misappropriated financial assistances confine them to catch fish for survival instead of for getting commercial benefits or upgrading standard of living.

Intermediaries are important element of distribution channel and therefore they deserve to be compensated for being a market link. But, benefits should equally be shared with producers that in this case are all those who belong to the fisheries sector. Unfair compensation and unnecessary dependence on middlemen because of weak direct link to the market keep their income from rising. In this situation, one can not expect people living on subsistence to take care of hygienic measures while handling aqua species or to decorate shades.

Without government support and private interest unadulterated of voracious commercial motive, fisheries sector can not prosper. Sindh government's schemes for fisheries sector's improvement are aimed at to cure the underperformance of the sector across the province. In these, for example model villages for fisherpersons would be established, prawn hatcheries in Jamshoro would be set up, and other facilitation and research services to fishers would be provided.

Under the public-private partnership programme, government has sought financial participation of investors in the fisheries sector. Private investment would inevitably be a timely support for the revenue-strapped government. However, private investors are unenthusiastic. Not a single letter of intent with private investor has been signed so far, an official confided to this scribe. He said the department was seeking assistance of board of investment (BoI) to trawl potential investors. The idea of Fisheries Development Company is in reverberation nowadays in the office, he said. The company would be similar to dairy development company and focus exclusively to drive progress of the fisheries sector. The proposed company would enable fisheries department to connect to investment line interpedently.