New deep-sea fishing policy
It would help increase the foreign exchange
earnings from the seafood
By Syed M. Aslam
July 16 - 22 , 2001
First, the salient features of the Deep-sea Fishing
Policy announced by the President's adviser on agriculture, Shafi Niaz,
on the second of this month. It allows the two-and-half dozen foreign
deep-sea fishing trawlers to renew their licenses cancelled on
September 25 last year. In addition, the government had also decided
to restrict the number of foreign fishing trawlers to 20 and number of
high-priced tuna trawlers to a maximum of 50.
It may be remembered that of the 30 trawlers
previously granted licenses to deep-fish only one was Pakistani —
the rest comprising 10 South Korean and Chinese trawlers each plus
The Deep-sea fishing policy not only announced
heavier penalties for violating the rules, mandatory installation of
global positioning satellite to ensure the deep-sea fishing trawlers
are operating beyond the 35 mile limit so as to avoid any conflict
with smaller traditional fishermen. It has also increased the license
fee from Rs 200,000 a vessel to Rs 1 million a vessel per year. The
penalty for violating the 35-200 mile exclusive economic zone is
increased from Rs 200,000 to Rs 1 million. Similarly, trawlers found
engaged in deep-sea fishing within the exclusive economic zone will
now have to pay a much higher penalty of Rs 2 million instead of Rs
Failure to furnish report or information about the
catch will now be liable to a penalty of Rs 25,000 per cruise instead
of Rs 10,000 previously. The penalty of Rs 50,000 a vessel has also
been increased to Rs 300,000 on egg-laden shrimp and lobsters. The
penalty for failure to have customs check at the ports has also been
increased from Rs 50,000 or confiscation of fish, or both, to Rs 1
million to ensure that all fish catch is duly reported. Similarly,
fish export through improper channel now carries a penalty of Rs 1.5
million instead of Rs 600,000 per cruise.
The measures listed above show that the government
intends to better its revenue, seafood production and exports. It also
shows that this time around the government mean business to exploit
the seafood resources the majority of which lies unused at present in
the absence of modern vessels, technologies and fishing gears
irrespective whether its local or foreign. It also shows its
inclination to best protect the interest of the local fishermen —
over 4,000 boats and hundreds of thousands of people are employed by
the Karachi fishing industry either directly or indirectly — by
resorting to enhanced penalties and fines.
The important question is: How effectively the
policy is implemented? And secondly, and as important, does the
government has the means and ways as well as the funds to see that the
deep-sea fishing trawlers, not known to obey the rules in the past,
will follow the rules this time around.
Surely, the new policy announced three operating
flights weekly compared to the existing once a week at present for
surveillance. This will be monitored by the Maritime Security Agency (MSA).
This means that the MSA has a increase the number of aerial patrols
requiring enhanced manpower, aircraft and of course budget over an
area which is too big.
Hanif Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Seafood
Industries Association which represents seafood processors and
exporters at the Karachi Fisheries, expressed serious concerns at the
policy which now allows deep-sea fishing. He said that big deep-sea
trawlers have been contributing only a small percentage to the total
seafood exports from the country — and yet they have been allowed to
play a much greater role in the new policy which goes against the very
interest of hundreds of traditional fishermen.
Despite contributing an average of no more than $
10 million to the total seafood exports which touched $172 million a
few years ago, the deep sea trawlers have now been seen fit to be
granted licenses, a move which would prove to be highly damaging for
the marine ecology. These trawlers equipped with latest fishing gear
have the capacity to net all species of seafood irrespective of their
sizes to do an irreparable damage to marine life which would cost us
dearly in the near future, he cautioned.
He said that the long standing demand of the
traditional fishermen to ban deep-sea fishing has now resulted in
earning them more trouble by making deep-sea fishing a permanent
fixture of the local fishing industry. He compared the policy to
'slaughtering the goat for want of a steak' meaning 'short term gains
for long term pains.'
Hanif expressed apprehensions that the policy would
not only encourage foreign operators to exploit the massive seafood
resources of the country at minimal costs but would also give them a
fearsome incompetitive edge over the traditional fishermen whose
smaller 50-70 Gross registered tonnage boats, and gears, can hardly
match their technologically superior foreign counterparts.
In addition, past experiences clearly indicate that
the relevant authorities have never been able to ward off the foreign
trawlers off the exclusive economic zones, and sometimes even within
the 35 mile limit. What's the guarantee that it would not happen
again? He also expressed concerns that the policy would adversely
affect seafood production and export as foreign trawlers are equipped
with onboard freezing and packaging plants to facilitate exports
irrespective of their location in the highseas. This will mean the end
of processing plant concept here in the country the sole beneficiary
of which will be the foreign deep-sea fishing operators — not only
the illegal ones but also the ones granted license by the government.
Commodore Syed Tayyab Naqvi, the chairman of
Fishermen's Cooperative Society, feels the 35 mile limit is not
expected to create any particular problem for the traditional fishing
industry. He, however, added that much depends on effectively the
policy is implemented. He told PAGE that seafood exports for
the fiscal ended June 30 is expected to increase over 7 per cent over
the last year- from $ 139.5 million to $ 150 million.
Justifying the lifting of traditional two-month
fishing ban 20-days earlier this year — July 10 instead of July 31
— he said that it was aimed at lessening the financial woes of
thousands of fishermen who depend solely on fishing for their
livelihood. Secondly, he added, there is no scientific method to
determine when a ban should be imposed and what its duration should
be. Even the technically qualified professionals seem to have a
difference of opinion on this issue as various species of fish have
different spawning periods over the year.
Commodore Naqvi refused to impact about the implications of the new
deep-sea fishing policy choosing to say only that it would help
increase the foreign exchange earnings from the seafood and that much
remains to conditional to how effectively the policy is implemented.