. .

Part II
The fishing ban 

  1. Jute Vs Polypropylene bags
  2. Islamabad new city scheme
  3. Boosting rice exports
  4. The fishing ban
  5. Agricultural fuels in crop productivity

By the time you read this second and concluding part of the fishing ban story which appeared in issue number 27, the Sindh government has lifted the ban with still 20 days to go.

By Syed M. Aslam
Jul 17 - 23, 2000

Talking to PAGE, the chairman of Fishermen's Cooperative Society and Karachi Fisheries Harbour Authority, Commodore Syed Tayyab Naqvi, said that the lifting of the ban vindicates his position that it serves no useful purpose. He told PAGE that the lifting of the ban is a welcome gesture indeed, and though good for only this year it will nevertheless help ease economic woes of thousands of the fishermen, particularly smaller ones, who were deprived of their livelihood. However, he suggested that the issue needs to be solved on permanent basis once and for all strictly on the basis of sound technicalities.

Meanwhile, continuing his arguments the Director General of Marine Fisheries Department, Moazzam Khan, said that though not a shrimp breeding season the fishing ban in June-July is necessary. It is necessary as it is the primary recruitment period of patash — the juvenile shrimps as they attain some size within four months after the peak spawning period of December-January in tropical water off the seacoast of Pakistan. One can imagine the harm the abolishing of the fishing ban, though flagrantly flouted, can do to the shrimp stock, he added.

The ban is necessary to protect the recruits and if effectively implemented, which unfortunately has not been the case, could save up to 75 per cent of patash. The months of June and July are strategically chosen to protect the patash rather the female shrimps as a ban in December-January could save only 14 per cent of the recruits. A similar ban is imposed by other countries in the region including Iran and Gulf states. In many countries on eastern coast of Africa the ban lasts for as many as 10 months a year. It is also provides one of the best option to protect the shrimp stocks in Pakistan.

For instance, restricting the commercial shrimp catch through mesh-size regulation, which allows smaller shrimps to escape the net, can not be effectively implemented because of the presence of multi-species stock in Pakistan. If such a ban is imposed on the catching of juveniles of jaira, the biggest shrimp variety, it will also lead to the escape of kiddi, the smallest variety. This will hurt the seafood industry badly as it would deprive of the kiddi catch which contributes a huge 56 per cent to the overall shrimp landings and immense waste as kiddi can not grow to a larger size respective of its age, Moazzam added.

Other measures such as reducing the number of trawlers, strict licensing procedures, limiting the duration of fishing expeditions or total closure are also impractical as they will draw loud protests not only from the fishermen but also from boat-builders.

Irrespective of the ineffective implementation, Moazzam said, the ban does serve a purpose as it restricts the movement of some 2,000 commercial trawlers at the Karachi Fish Harbour by not issuing port clearance. Trends show that the effective implementation of the ban in the past was followed by bumper shrimp landings, Moazzam said.

Moazzam said that though a strong proponent of the ban he recommends it only on the commercial trawling in the creeks and not on the use of tukri — the non-commercial catch either by the gill net and the cast net — so as not to deprive the small fishermen of their livelihood.

He said that a committee formed by the Sindh Government in 1998 had recommended a round-the-year ban on the trawling in the creeks areas as well as three-mile zone with the coastal water. In the absence of the implementation of the recommendation, which was supported by the scientific data and addressed the socio-economic implications, the ban offers the only means to save the fast depleting shrimp stocks, he said, adding that a similar 'closed area' measure is also used by other countries in the region including India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia while there is a complete ban on trawling in Indonesia.

He also rejected the notion that the absence of a similar off-season in Balochistan is discriminatory. Of the total 26,204 tonnes of shrimp landed in 1998 only 835 tonnes came from Balochistan while the rest of 25,369 tonnes came from Sindh. The shrimp stocks of Balochistan are not under threat like that in Sindh and therefore the necessity of slapping just such a ban is not needed, he added.

So despite its flagrant violation, the ban remains the only viable option to help protect the shrimp stocks and should continue as long as the year-round ban within the three-mile zone is not only promulgated but also effectively imposed. Failure to do so will be an ecological collapse for the shrimp-lead fishing industry as it may result in sudden and massive reduction in shrimp catch over-night, Moazzam warned.