The ban is primarily aimed at
protecting the baby shrimp in the creeks
By SYED M. ASLAM
Jul 03 - 09, 2000
Shrimp is to seafood what cotton is to the overall exports of Pakistan.
Though in terms of quantity shrimp's share in the total seafood exports was only 21 per
cent in 1998, 60 per cent of the entire earnings from the seafood exports came from it.
This, however, is not a detached example as Pakistani seafood exports has always had a
strong shrimp-lead base. The importance of shrimp to the seafood exports of Pakistan can
hardly be over-emphasised. It also highlights the need for the development of sustainable
growth of shrimp.
A cursory glance at the quantities of shrimp catch over the years show
that shrimp production has increased by over 35 per cent between 1971 to 1998 from
19,821 metric tonnes to 26,204 tonnes respectively. However, a closer analysis of these
statistics show that though the overall shrimp production has increased substantially, the
production of the premier quality of big shrimp, Jaira in local dialect, has declined by
over 46 per cent during three decades. The increase in shrimp catch has been made possible
primarily due only to the fact that more and more low-priced kiddi shrimp is being netted
while the landings of Jaira has been on constant decline and is feared to head towards a
Pakistani seafood industry is under heavy threat of acute degradation,
and possible collapse, if measures are not taken on the top priority basis to address the
disturbing issue regarding the ever decreasing catch of big-sized and premium priced
shrimp variety, Jaira. Afterall, shrimp traditionally contribute the massive share in the
overall seafood exports from the country.
The kiddy landings have increased almost five-fold since 1971. This
looks good on the surface but when one takes a look at the statistics of the year-wise
shrimp landings during last three-decades it show a disturbing trend which still fails to
draw the attention of the policy makers and relevant authorities.
The production of Kiddi has been increased by almost five-fold since
1971 while the production of Jaira has declined drastically by 47 per cent during the same
year. Not only the quantity of catch is on a decline but experts say that the size of
Jaira has also been shortened due to excess fishing due to various factors which are
discussed in this article later.
A two-month ban on all fishing activities in Sindh, one of two
provinces beside Balochistan to be gifted with the coastal areas in Pakistan, is observed
in June and July for decades. The ban is primarily aimed at protecting the baby shrimp in
the creeks to help them develop into full-grown shrimps. Many feel that the ban serves no
useful purpose, lacks any scientific proof and fosters only unrest among thousands of
fishermen in Sindh, particularly Karachi which is the hub of fish production, processing
and export activities. They also feel that depriving these thousands of fishermen their
livelihood for two months every year could hardly be justified as it takes heavy
socio-economic toll on a large number of people.
Abolish the Ban
The chairman of Fishermen's Co-operative Society, Commodore Syed Tayyab
Naqvi, strongly feel that the complete fishing ban in June and July does not serve any
purpose except denying thousands of fishermen their livelihood for two full months a year.
Commodore Naqvi who is also the head of the Karachi Fish Harbour Authority, said that in
1998 Sindh contribution to the total fish production nationwide was about 67 per cent,
followed by 30 per cent by Balochistan while the rest came from the inland fishing in
various parts of Punjab and NWFP provinces. Marine and inland fishing in Sindh both
contribute a significant share to the fish production in the country and thus none can be
overlooked at the cost of the other, he added
He said that the ban on fishing activities in Sindh during June and
July which is primarily aimed to protect the shrimp juveniles serves no useful purpose.
The spawning season, he said, starts in the months of November and December in the shallow
waters. After the spawning the micro-size shrimp babies finds their way into the creeks
and mangroves where further development takes place. Sindh, he said, offers an excellent
breeding grounds for shrimp as mangroves in the Indus Delta are spread over 600,000 acres
which make it the seventh largest mangroves area in the world.
Since both sea and fresh water are both necessary for the existence of
mangroves, the Indus Delta makes it possible to have Sindh a large mangrove areas which
could not be find in Balochistan which has no such deltas. The presence of this vast area
of mangrove in Sindh thus provide an extremely productive in Sindh, he added.
Explaining the development process of shrimp, Tayyab said that the baby
shrimps remain in creeks and mangroves for full three months upto March till they attain
the juvenile status. Once this status is achieved the shrimp population moves to the
deeper water away from the creeks and the mangroves to attain the full adulthood which
ultimately comes in June and July the traditional months of fishing ban in the
province. Does it makes sense to continue the fishing ban in these months, Tayyab asked.
He also provided the answer by saying that experts seem to contradict
themselves whether the ban serves any purpose. For instance, he said, those who say that
the fishing ban is necessary as it helps sustain shrimp stocks also suggest that if the
government chose to impose a year-round ban on the fishing within three-mile from the
seashore there would be no need for two-month ban every year. These experts negate their
own argument, Tayyab added.
Secondly, he said, thousands of fishermen in Sindh who have been plying
their trade for decades say that shrimps of Indus Basin flows to the seashore in the
monsoon season during June and July due to the ocean currents. They start flowing back
inland after this period and the ban thus deprives the fishermen of livelihood at a great
cost to the national economy. The lifting of the ban can help turn this loss into
substantial source of revenue not only for the benefit of thousands of fishermen but also
for the economy of the country.
Tayyab said that looking at the problem from organisation and
management angle plus the conflicting views of the experts and the logic of traditional
fishermen influenced him to make recommendations to the provincial government that there
should not be a ban on fishing during June and July. Tayyab said that creeks are the
nurseries of shrimps and thus should be protected fully in spite of the massive ongoing
In addition, Tayyab said the ban which deprives thousands of fishermen
in Sindh of their livelihood also reflects an inter-provincial conflict as it is imposed
in Sindh alone while Balochistan imposes no such restriction to allow year-round fishing
activities. Why this inter-provincial discrepancy between two provinces of the same
country, he asked. If shrimp fishing in June and July is bad for the government of Sindh
why its not so for the government of Balochistan? The issue should be discussed without
adhocism on scientific analysis and experts' debate to reach the logical conclusion for
the two coastal provinces of the country.
This is all the more imperative, he said, as the lack of resources to
effectively implement the ban is resulting in massive violations of the ban across Sindh.
Though it is stopped at the Karachi fishing harbour which does not allow any of some 2,000
trawlers to leave the berths, shrimp catching goes on unabated and unchecked. Shrimps
landings keep pouring into the market and the seafood processing factories from not only
from Sindh despite the ban but also from Balochistan where there is no such ban, he added.
Tayyab said that he would like the National Institute of Oceanography
at Clifton, Karachi to become involved in commercial fisheries project. The Institute
equipped with state-of-the-art equipments and highly qualified scientific professionals
should try to solve the issue on merit alone for once and all. He informed PAGE
that 40 per cent of all seafood catch is wasted in the country due to absence of
inadequate storage facility. "We need quantitative as well as qualitative increase in
seafood exports. Though illiterate, our fishermen are intelligent enough to be easy
trained to learn the basic storage and hygienic handling of seafood catch at every stage
to improve the quality of seafood to fetch better prices in the international market. Some
10 weeks ago I initiated a week long training for the fishermen and have trained some
1,300 fishermen while another 650 are now on the waiting list," Tayyab added.
The ban should continue
The Director General of Marine Fisheries Department, Moazzam Khan, said
that the drastic reduction in the landings of jaira and five-fold increase in the catch of
kiddi is an indication that the fishing industry of Pakistan is heading towards a collapse
which may happen overnight. Trends also show that the size of jaira shrimp is getting
smaller and smaller thus depriving the country huge amounts of foreign exchange in export
earnings as the price of shrimp is basically size-driven.
This of course can be avoided by taking all of the following measures
on top priority basis. There were only two fishing trawlers in Karachi in 1955 which
increased to 668 in 1971 and some 2,500 at present; of which 2,500 operates out of Karachi
Fish Harbour and another 500 from Ibrahim Hydry, a fishing village in Korangi. Does the
increase in the number of trawlers makes any economic sense?
No, says Moazzam. The per year (actually 10 months excluding June and
July) per trawler shrimp landings at Karachi have declined from 15 tonnes in 1971 to a
just 2.12 tonnes at present. Does this six-fold increase in the number of trawlers between
1971 and 1998 make an economic sense, asked Moazzam.
There are three types of over-fishing growth, reproductive and
environmental all of which require different proofs. For instance, the proof of
growth over-fishing is the smaller size of composition and grade as has been the case with
all the three major varieties of shrimps jaira, kalri and kiddi. A continuation of
the growth over-fishing results into reproductive over-fishing which simply means that
there would be not enough females, or males) to reproduce progeny. In the next stage there
would be no commercial quantities left threatening the very collapse of certain seafood
species fishing and this is what has happened to our shrimp, Moazzam warned. While
environmental pollution which is not conducive for fish growth is also a major problem
faced by many countries around the world it is the problems of growth and reproductive
over-fishing which is seriously threatening our shrimp stocks.
Moazzam stressed that it is imperative to continue the ban till the
government comes out with the regulation which it agreed in 1998 to outlaw fishing within
the three-mile zone from the coastline throughout the year. Till the announcement of such
a regulation the ban should continue as fishing continues unabated despite the ban. He
said that there is no difference among the marine experts that the ban on fishing will
ensure adequate measures to sustain shrimp stocks irrespective of its not being
implemented at all and particularly it is violated during March and April when the shrimp
poaching at the mouth of creeks, though legal, does not allow the juveniles to reach to
deeper waters to attain their fullest maturity to fetch a much better price, he added.
Year-wise Shrimp Landings
(In Metric Tons)
|Source Marine Fisheries
(To be continued next week)