FISH: VITAL SOURCE OF WHITE MEAT

DR. S.M ALAM & DR. M.A KHAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Aug 2 - 8, 2010

Fish in consumption category is known as white meat. Fishery as a sub-sector of agriculture plays a significant role in the national economy and towards the food security, as it reduces the existing pressure on demand for mutton, beef and poultry. It is a good source of white meat. As a sub-sector to agriculture it contributes an average about one per cent to the total GDP.

Pakistan is blessed with rich fishery resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) spreading over an area of about 250,000 square kilometers. Pakistan has a coastal line of about 1,050 kilometers along the coast of Sindh and Bolachistan provinces. Fishery is an important source of livelihood for the coastal inhabitants. Therefore, it is considered as one of the most important economic activities. Fishery's share in GDP though is very little it contributes to the national income through export earnings.

At present, a major part of the food fish is either consumed locally or salted/dried for export. With the exception of local consumption and small quantity of frozen and chilled fish exported to European countries and Middle East, a bulk of the fish is salted, dried and exported to Sri Lanka. Some of the important fish catch are tuna, salt fish, marlins, groupers, dolphin fish, catfish, sharks, etc.

Pakistan's fishery being of diversified in nature has considerable opportunities for attracting foreign investment and fishery products are exported to 61 countries and the major importers are Europe, China, Japan, USA, Germany, Middle East, Sri Lanka, African countries etc. Fishing is the most common profession of the people particularly those living along the coastal belts of the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. At present, about 45,000 fishing crafts of different kinds such as mechanical sail boats, sail boats, row boats, trawlers and gill netters etc, are busy in fishing in the mainland and marine areas, (i.e. rivers, ponds, seashores and high seas). Pakistan has waste inland water resources.

Inland fisheries are mostly done in the River Indus, which flows from the mountains of NWFP southwards and after entering the Punjab province near Attock falls into the Indian Ocean in the Sindh province near Karachi. The Indus is joined by four large rivers that flow through most of the extent of the Punjab. An extensive canal system and interconnecting waterways are a salient feature of this network throughout the inland heartland in the Punjab and upper Sindh. The fish harbors are located at Karachi port, Ibrahim Hydari, Gwadar, Ormara and Pasni in Balochistan. The fish are very nutritive diet for the human beings. They are the vital natural resources of the world. There are more than twenty thousand of fish species, but nearly 1500-9,000 are currently in use which serve the nutritional, economical and trading needs.

Indian Ocean near southern Pakistan is the main source of fish for the country. In 2006, both inland and the marine fish (fish and shrimp) production in Pakistan is nearly 605 thousand tons. In its water areas, Pakistan has more than 100 species of fish. Nearly 25 of them have a fruitful commercial value. The fish and shrimp are the valuable items of export.

The other sources for catching fish are inland resources such as small rivers, dams (Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma), barrages, lakes (Haleji, Keenjhar and Manchhar), reservoirs, ponds and canals covering a substantial water area and in these areas inland fisheries can be stocked with better variety of fish both for sweet water and brackish water. Existing facilities for breeding and supply of fish and dissemination of technical knowhow for improving fish are being strengthened.

It is estimated that nearly hundred thousand of fresh fish are consumed yearly in the country. Pakistan is one of the protein-deficient countries of the world. Pakistan's per capita consumption of fish is about 1.95 kg.

Fish is considered to be the best animal protein for human consumption. In Pakistan, the per capita consumption of fish is, however, very low in comparison with other nations. In European countries, it is 20 kg and in Japan it is 64 kg.

Of the total marine fish harvested, about 42 per cent are consumed locally in the form of fresh fish or fish processed into fish meal. The marine fish are disposed of or marketed as fresh, freezing, canning for local consumption. Fish proteins have a high biological value. It contains variable quantities of calcium, phosphorus, fat and other nutrients important for human health and growth. Fish oils are rich sources of the soluble fat. An excessive use of fish generally lowers the blood cholesterol level and reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases.

Omega-3 is a class of polyunsaturated commonly found in the oils that come from fish and as a result of modern diets most of us do not eat enough of them. Omega-3 from fish or fish oil lowers the blood pressure; blood becomes less sticky and less likely to form blood clots. Stable blood pressure helps the blood to circulate more easily around the body. Inflammatory processes are damped down, reducing the pain and discomfort of arthritis and the misery of psoriasis. Almost all fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, cod, lobster, canned tuna, sole, mackerel, crab, sprats, haddock, prawns, pilchards, oysters, etc. contain Omega-3. Fish products are also used in the preparation of antiviral, antibiotic and anticancer agents. Fishmeal is used in manufacturing of poultry feed. Fish manure is used as fertiliser, fish oil as medicine and for printer ink.

Pakistan is endowed with large coastlines encompassing the most productive ocean in the world. The geographical setting of the country is ideal for the development of fish industry. There appears to be good prospect for further development of inland fish production, especially in the manmade reservoirs, waterlogged areas and, the Indus delta region. Meaningful cultural activities, improved gears and fishing techniques are needed to boost the fishing sector to further strengthen the economy.

A properly developed fish industry can increase export to earn huge foreign exchange. It can also provide a source of vitamin-rich diet. Development of fishery can also play an important role in provision of employment and growth opportunities to many small and middle size communities along the coastlines. A major factor in the development of modern fish industry is the establishment of adequate hatcheries, nurseries for carps and trout processing plants, storage facilities, and preservation and marketing techniques. In addition, a properly developed fish industry requires the assistance of a host of allied industries such as the manufacturers of gears, boats, engines and likewise other items necessary for the fish industries.

Law and regulations should be implemented to protect the resources from over exploitation. Commercially important marine and shore animals and plants require special sanctuaries under the direct supervision of scientists. Whatever the technical, financial and research inputs may be, the desired rate of expansion of fisheries production and utilisation can be achieved only if due attention is paid to the intensive problem for solving research programmes.

Different organisations have planned to establish research projects covering both marine and fresh water fisheries and allied aqua culture. Major emphasis has to be made on extensive surveys of fisheries resources' conservation and fauna of mangrove, post harvest deterioration of marine shrimps, fish and shellfish resources of coastal areas, breeding biology and seed production of commercially important freshwater fishes, feed formulation for fish culture, freshwater prawn culture, trout fish farming and fisheries management.

With concerted efforts along with proper incentives, the fisheries production is likely to increase, leading to its greater role in the national economy. Pakistan can enjoy surplus fish production but there still exists great disparity of price in different markets, mainly due to the absence of facilities for cold storage and other methods of preservation and transportation.