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Pakistan can earn huge forex through fishing

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There is a need to develop fishing sector on modern lines

By Syed Manzoor Alam, NIA Tandojam
Oct 18 - 24, 1999

Fishing is the most common profession of the people particularly those living along the coastal belts of the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. At present 35,000 sail boats, row boats, trawlers and gill netters etc. are busy in fishing in the mainland and marine areas. (i.e. rivers, ponds, seashores and high seas). Pakistan has vast inland water resources.

The general characteristics of the inland fisheries are dominated by the River Indus, which flows from the mountains of NWFP southwards and after entering the Punjab province near Attock, falls into the Indian Ocean in the Sindh province. The Indus is joined by four large rivers that flow through most of the extent of the Punjab. An extensive canal system and inter-connecting waterways are a salient feature of this network throughout the inland heartland in the Punjab and upper Sindh. The fish harbours are located at Karachi port, Ibrahim Hydari, Gwadar, Ormara and Pasni in Balochistan. The fish are very nutritive diet for the human beings. They are the vital natural resources of the world. There are more than twenty thousand of fish species, but nearly 8,500-9,000 are currently in use which serve the nutritional, economical and trading phenomena of the human beings. It is an established fact that seas, oceans, rivers, streams, estuaries near-shore sea, estuaries, mangroves, ponds, lakes and man-made reservoirs are the largest factors of organic living matter of the country. These water resources are being utilized for more fish extensively nourishment and cultivation purposes and offer tremendous opportunities for farming of fish organisms. Indian Ocean near southern Pakistan is the main source of fish for the country. In recent years, the marine fish (fish and shrimp) production in Pakistan is nearly 556 x 103 mt. Pakistan has a coastline of 1,120 km, covering Mekran (Balochistan) and the coast of Karachi (Sindh). In its water areas, Pakistan has more than 100 species of fish and nearly 25 of them have a fruitful commercial value. The fish and shrimp are the valuable items of export and foreign exchange and million of rupees were earned in 1998.

The other sources for catching fish are inland resources such as small rivers, dams (Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma), barrages, lakes (Haleji, Keenjhar and Manchhar), reservoirs, ponds and canals covering a substantial water area and in these areas inland fisheries can be stocked with better variety of fish both for sweet water and brackish water. Existing facilities for breeding and supply of fish and dissemination of technical know how for improving fish are being strengthened. It is estimated that nearly hundred thousand of fresh fish are consumed yearly in the country. Pakistan is one of the protein-deficient countries of the world. Our per capita animal meat consumption, including fish is about 8.8 kg. Fish is considered to be the best animal protein for human consumption. In Pakistan the per capita consumption of fish is, however, very low i.e. 1.6 kg. This in comparison with other nations. In European countries it is 20 kg and in Japan it is 64kg.

Of the total marine fish harvested, about 32 per cent are consumed locally in the form of fresh fish or fish processed into fish meal. The marine fish are disposed of or marketed as fresh, freezing, canning for local consumption. Fish proteins have a high biological value. It contains variable quantities of calcium, phosphorus, fat and other nutrients important for human health and growth. Fish oils are rich sources of the soluble fat. An excessive use of fish generally lowers the blood cholesterol level and reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases. Fish products are also used in the preparation of anti-viral, anti-biotic and anti-cancer agents. Fishmeal is used in the better handling and distribution might permit an increase in the marketable yield manufacture of poultry feed, fish manure for fertilizer, fish oil as medicine and for printer ink. Thus, catching fish plays an important role in the national economy of the country. Pakistan is endowed with large coastlines encompassing the most productive ocean in the world. The geographical setting of the country is ideal for the development of fish industry. There appears to be good prospect for further development of inland fish production, especially in the man-made reservoirs, waterlogged areas and the Indus delta region. Meaningful cultural activities, improved gears and fishing techniques are needed to boost the fishing sector to further strengthen the economy.

A properly developed fish industry can increase export to earn huge foreign exchange. It can also provide a source of vitamin-rich diet. Development of fishery can also play an important role in provision of employment and growth opportunities to many small and middle size communities along the coastlines. A major factor in the development of modern fish industry is the establishment of adequate hatcheries, nurseries for carps and trout processing plants, storage facilities, and preservation and marketing techniques. In addition, a properly developed fish industry requires the assistance of a host of allied industries such as the manufacturers of gears, boats, engines and likewise other items necessary for the fish industries. The objective of fish production is to ensure the provision of food through application of new efficient and economically feasible capture. Fisheries laws and regulations should be implemented to protect the resources from over exploitation. Commercially important marine and shore animals and plants require special sanctuaries under the direct supervision of scientists. Whatever the technical, financial and research inputs, the desired rate of expansion of fisheries production and utilization can be achieved only if due attention is paid to the intensive problem for solving research programmes. Proper liaison may be established among the fishery-related organization like PARC, WAPDA and PCSIR on the one hand and Federal and Provincial Fisheries Departments on the other. In view of the huge resources available, the present annual production nearly (445 thousand mt) seems to be quite meager. The estimated potential of our water resources is more than 650 thousand mt. This production gap could be bridged only through research and extension.

Different organizations have planned to establish research projects covering both marine and fresh water fisheries and allied aqua culture. Major emphasis has to be made on extensive surveys of fisheries resources conservation and fauna of mangrove forest wetland, post harvest deterioration of marine shrimps, fish and shellfish resources of coastal areas, breeding biology and seed production of commercially important freshwater fishes, feed formulation for fish culture, freshwater prawn culture, trout fish farming and fisheries management.

With concerted efforts along with proper incentives, the fisheries production is likely to increase, leading to its greater role in the national economy. Pakistan can enjoy surplus fish production but there still exists great disparity of price in different markets, mainly due to the absence of facilities for cold storage and other methods of preservation and transportation.