DEVELOPING COASTAL AREAS

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
Jan 19 - 25, 2009

Coastal areas have immense economic potential. Fisheries contribute only 0.3 per cent to the overall GDP and 1.3 per cent to the agricultural GDP despite a coastline of 1,050 km and a total area of approximately 0.25 million square kilometers of marine and 0.08 million sq km of inland waters. According to data recently released by the Marine Fisheries Department, the shellfish stocks (shrimps, lobsters, crabs, etc.,) have dropped to 28,166 tons of landing against the maximum sustainable yield of 47,500 tons. The country's total stock of various fish and their landing are: small pelagics 700,000 tons (landing 96,658 tons); demarsals 500,000 tons (168,225 landing); large pelagics 88,000 tons (landing 47,141 tons); shellfish 171,000 tons (landing 28,166 tons); mesopelagics 10,000,000 tons with no landing. Balochistan fish landings dropped from 126,755 tons in 2003 to 137,082 tons in 2007. Unfortunately, Fisheries has been a neglected sector in Balochistan, which makes up 70 percent of the country's total coastal line.

Present government has particularly focused the development of fish cage culture in the coastal areas of Balochistan to alleviate poverty. The construction of a model fish market in Gwadar has already been planned to introduce intensive fish cage culture at Sabkzai and Mirani dams. The enormous fish and seafood potential of Balochistan coast is yet to be tapped. The province enjoys diversity of marine life in nature. Its coastline is the most productive marine ecosystem of the world. According to an estimate, 60 species of fish and 10 of shrimps, including the best in the world, are found in the province. It produces 200,000 tons of fish per year, of which 80,000 tons are fished by trawlers from Sindh. In real sense, the province has been confined to merely on-shore water fishing due to lack of infrastructure facilities. The catch is spoiled as it is exposed to sun and impurities. In the absence of quality control regime, fresh and good quality fish find no access to national and international markets at large scales.

During FY 2005-06, the total marine and inland fish production stood at 0.6 million metric tons, of which 63 per cent was marine production and the remaining 37 per cent catch came from inland waters. Fifty per cent of the total production i.e. 0.3mmt was consumed locally, 0.12mmt of fish and fish products were exported and 0.18mmt of the fish production was used as fish meal. According to the central bank, the sector has an export potential of $1 billion' annually and it provides direct employment to about 379,000 fishermen and 400,000 people are employed in ancillary industries.

Shrimp farming is an important economic activity, which can develop unproductive salty coastal areas of Balochistan. The land along coastal belt has enormous potential for development of shrimp farming and processing projects, which can play a vital role in fisheries development in the province. The sites for shrimp farms and shrimp hatchery have been identified at Gadani, Dam Ormara, Pasni, Kalmat, Pishukan and Jiwani Balochistan government will allot around 500 acres of land free of cost at each site identified for the project. Federal government plans to construct 8 shrimp farms on the basis of private-public partnership in the province. Each model shrimp farm will comprise of up to 100 pond units of 1-2 acres each, 75 per cent of these ponds will be for private sector. Technical assistance from National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) may be sought for shrimp farming on extensive level in Balochistan. Establishment of a dehydration plant in Balochistan is under consideration of the government.

Government should announce incentives for induction of the private sector in fisheries development, as the interested entrepreneurs and investors can promote the shrimp farming in the province purely on the commercial basis. The provincial government should allot lands in coastal districts to private parties interested in promoting shrimp farming. Introduction to the modern technology and application of sophisticated techniques in the field must be the focus of economic planners involved in devising a pro-active strategy for capturing more market share of shrimp business in the global market.

The economic planners should also devise the strategies for production of quality farm-raised shrimps and for exploitation of tremendous marketing opportunities in the world market. The three major markets for farm-raised shrimp are the United States, Europe and Japan. Efforts should be made for setting up environment-friendly shrimp farms in Balochistan, as environmental deterioration in shrimp farms and coastal waters is common evidence after intensive shrimp farming due to the accumulation of organic waste.

The government needs to devise a pro-active strategy for capturing more market share of shrimp business in the global market by promoting shrimp farming along side the coastal line in Sindh and Balochistan. Various government agencies including Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA) may chalk out a national road map to promote the shrimp farming in coastal areas. It is a positive step in this direction that the State Bank of Pakistan recently devised a detailed plan to finance the fisheries sector, which receives bank credits just 0.4 per cent of the total agricultural credit disbursements.

Local fishermen are facing acute problems. They still follow the old and obsolete methods of fishing. They are unaware of latest fishing technologies and still use old and smaller vessels for fishing. They have no processing plant for preservation of their catch. Local fishermen have no access to national and international markets for lack of infrastructure facilities and mainly because of their poverty. They remain deprived of fruit of their catch and hence there seems no improvement in their socio-economic conditions.

There is a need to rehabilitate the local fishermen and improve the conditions under which they work. Increasing cost of transportation and lack of preservation technology are the main hurdles barring the local fisherman to fish in deep waters. The working capital should be provided to purchase fuel, ration and ice, overhead expenses i.e. labour, packaging, processing and cleaning items required for export of fish. Credit for consumable items for curing and drying would also be provided while a long list of items regarding freezing, packaging charges, etc. was produced to banks for financing.