June 30 - July 06, 2008

Howsoever far a pole to billion dollar group seafood industry of the country can at least generate an average $160 million export amount per annum, yet rotating bans on export to European Union countries, which has the largest purchase order of over $50 million for Pakistani seafood items, not only slow down its growth rate but also distance the dream of touching a billion dollar export figure away.

Marine biomass captured naturally or via inland farming has earned government export revenue of $166 million during July-May 2008. Normally the EU embargo attributed to discontented seafood processing facilities imposes on all 11 to 12 exporters of the country. EU has very stringent health standards for importing food products. Malaysia recently itself suspended seafood export to EU in order to avoid ban due to non-compliance with health standards.

Pakistan's sea food has significant commercial value in international market. Along with EU countries, Pakistani fish fresh, chilled or frozen, dried, salted or smoked; shrimps (prawns); lobsters and crabs; molluscs live, fresh, frozen, dried; etc. are liked very much internationally. Some of the country's marine foods such as tuna, mackerel, barnacles are precious genres and expensive equally in local and international markets. Even a rare kind of fish costs around 60,000 Pakistani rupees. Its extremely oily mass is used to prepare stitches. Because of having high price value in foreign countries and low local consumption, mostly seafood is exported in abundance out the country. Since domestic consumption of seafood in Pakistan is termed as one of lowest in the world import is too negligible.

Total annual world's seafood export is of near 50 billion dollars. And, developed countries like Japan, USA, and EU occupy 75% share in total imports while Japan has the largest share amongst them. Pakistan exports marine foods mainly to EU, US, Japan and Middle-Eastern countries. Seventy percent of the fisheries exported from Pakistan are marine-based.

Pakistan has a total coastline of 1,050 km, spaciously spread in Balochistan, and a total area of approximately 300,270 square kilometres. Basically marine activities are carried forward in Karachi, Gwadar and Pasni. There are 38 processing units out of which 27 work as freezing units. The total capacity of these units is about 450 tonnes per day while their average capacity utilization is 25% for not all freezing plants are in concurrent operations. The installed capacity of 11 canning plants is 106 metric tonne per day.

There are mainly three harbours and of them Karachi harbour is considered to be the biggest and laden with relatively better infrastructure facilities. It has 10 floating piers with a berthing capacity of 32 vessels on both sides. It also has an ice and oil supply bunker available for accommodation of 300 tons per day flake ice plant and an oil dispensing station.

Relevant infrastructure for example for transporting marine items is not adequate in other harbours across the country. However, Gwadar harbour has a 416 meter long and 65 meter wide jetty. Since it's been recently established, modern peculiarities in shipment handling would be considered.

In Karachi, to divert work overload and avert congestion from Karachi harbour, Federal government constructed the Korangi fish harbour with 709-meter long jetty and assumed the governing authority of the harbour. This move is criticized by the people associated with fisheries sector in Sindh. They opine that transfer of harbour authority from central to provincial government can bring improvement in the seafood processing industry.

Many fishermen are also not pleased with the decision as the very purpose of establishing Korangi fish harbour was to promote deep sea fishing, which often is disliked by them. It is commonly observed that for exporting purpose high priority is given to few species and value addition is given least importance. The negligible importance given to value addition is rendering Pakistan's seafood goods a bad name in foreign markets.

Improper freezing and storage facilities and dirty fishery processing vicinity shorten the shelf life and make foods more vulnerable to fungus and viruses. Filth and dirt in an around harbours give an impression as if workers and people living in surrounding areas are acclimated to the atmosphere.

Even though living in the miserable conditions around the quaysides of Sindh and Balochistan anglers have been laboriously building fisheries sector for centuries, earning exchequer substantial export revenue and consistently sustaining sagging Pakistan's sea food industry.

Over one million people, most of them working as fishermen, associate with fisheries sector of the country. Still relying on ancient ways of fishing they earn breads and butters for their families. One of such old methods of fishing is throwing of diesel in the water to catch rare progeny of fish, which is dieing out day by day because of excessive hunts by deep sea-fishing trawlers. As opposed to small anglers, big vessels lay large nets in the fishing ground to trawl out tones of marine mass in one go. Thereby, it is said, along with depletion of valuable water species, large nets cause ecological imbalances. These nets extract all marine mass irregardless of its usage value. Obviously, small [dead] fishes are thrown back in the water resulting into environmental pollution.

Besides having saddled with modern technologies, deep-sea-trawlers have competitive edge over small fishermen in fishing. According to an estimate, around 50 automated and modern facilities laden deep sea vessels engage in fishing round the year in the water economic zone of Pakistan. These trawlers have onboard storing and freezing and preserving plants and they can produce better export quality canned seafood; government gets heavy royalty against issuance of licenses to trawlers.

However, the size of produces in harbours is in large quantity. This is why performance of fisheries sector of the country is glanced through harbours, which has loads of latent drivers to propel export growth. Amelioration of the sector's robustness is directly correlated to improving conditions of fishermen whose skill development and enhancement and facilitation can only repair the image of the country's fisheries sector abroad. Apart from this, export figures from the sector can be increased through promotion of inland farming, which is a futuristic mode of corporate fishing.