Research Analyst
July 18 - 24, 2011

Seafood is a major source of nutrition and contributes to food security and poverty alleviation. In spite of having vast potential of aquaculture development, seafood industry has not been developed adequately in Pakistan. Fish is a rich source of protein and can solve the problem of malnutrition. It provides 26.2 per cent of animal meat and is a growing food source in Asia along with other developing countries. All over the world, production from marine capture fisheries has decreased because of excessive fishing and rising demand mainly due to increases in population.

Aquaculture development would be the best option to meet increasing demand of fish and its future supply. About eight million tonnes of fish come through semi intensive or intensive systems using mixed or manufactured artificial feeds. In Pakistan the development of appropriate artificial feed is needed to convert our conventional fish culture and improve per unit fish production.

Pakistan is producing a number of feed ingredients which can be used to formulate fish diet. However, presently no formulated aqua feed is available in the country.

Public and private investments to manufacture formulated aqua feed are required to increase per acre production. Rohu, Thaila and Mori are indigenous fish species of South Asia especially occur in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The production of carp has significantly increased in Asia for local or regional consumption by relatively low income people.

During July-March 2010-11, Pakistan earned $197.3 million through seafood exports. Exports of fish in 2009-10 were 113,219 tonnes and earned $227 million. During 2008-09, a total of 134,000 metric tonnes of seafood fetched $236 million for the country. Pakistan's major buyers include China, Thailand, Malaysia, Middle East, Sri Lanka and Japan. Although Pakistan has lost the European market but that was soon compensated as exporters found new destinations.

Egypt was a potential market. Even low price fish such as Lizard Fish is fetching a good price in Egypt. The average unit price for the first time has crossed $2 per kg in new markets. Exporters are getting a 30 per cent higher price for squids and cuttle fish in world markets, especially in China.

The government set a fish export target of $300 million for this fiscal year and if exporters continue to get high prices, exports may reach a level beyond the target. It is estimated that Pakistan's seafood industry has a potential to earn up to $1.2 billion export revenue.

The EU banned Pakistan sea food imports four years ago in April 2007. It imposed a ban on import of frozen seafood and its products from Pakistan, because they failed to meet their requirements. It had issued several notices to concerned authorities for improving the standards of products exported to European markets. The country is losing at least $300 million due to halting of seafood exports to EU markets. It seems that the ban will continue for an indefinite period. Around the same time, the EC detected serious shortcomings in the seafood production system and identified that absence of insufficient controls, lack of proper vessel inspection, landing of fish catch at non approved landing sites and critical defects in approved establishments put the health of EU consumers at risk given they used seafood products originating from Pakistan.

The verification of compliance of feed and food law, animal health, animal welfare rules should be ensured by equivalent Pakistani legislation and systems.

The Saudi Arabia's main city-Jeddah is the only cash market while all other Middle East markets purchase seafood on credit. Dubai is also a huge market for Pakistani seafood but it purchases on credit.

Saudi authorities had also warned and informed Pakistani government officials about the export of undersized and poor quality fish.

The reason of low quality was that they were using simple ice instead of dry ice, to lower costs, which damaged the quality of seafood during air transportation. But they did not give a reason for why the product was undersized. The Authority has also failed to implement the use of insulated plastic crates for handling seafood catch properly.

On the other hand, seafood industry related people are facing many problems in the country. Two major problems are that of depleting fish stock and poor quality controls and inadequate hygiene measures, which result in a low value of the catch and high levels of wastage.

Presently, the Sindh Assembly has passed Sindh Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2011 to abolish the lease and contract system of fishing to replace it with a new license system for fishing in the province. The Provincial Assembly noted that the existing lease and contract system of fishing in Sindh snatched economic rights of bona fide fishermen. At least 0.5 million fishermen's economic conditions are deteriorating because influential people are exploiting them under the garb of present lease and contract system of fishing.


The various initiatives are being taken by the federal and provincial fisheries departments that include strengthening of extension services, introduction of new fishing methodologies, development of value added products, enhancement of per capita consumption of fish and up-gradation of socioeconomic conditions of the fishermen's community.