A total of 80% of Pakistan’s coastal population engages in fishing, and it is an important source of economical development that is constantly evolving over the course of years. In the late 1960, fishing fleets were motorized and in present era, there are large fishing vessels fitted with freezing facilities operating in both coastal and offshore waters of Pakistan. A rough estimate of fishing yield of both local fish and shellfish is approx. 355,000 metric tons per annum.
In Pakistan, fishing is continued along the coastline around the year, whereas, the peak season for fishing is between August and November. There is also an increase in the number of catches through the months of spring. The government of Pakistan regulated the catch of shrimps by banning it through the months of June & July. The status of fisheries in Pakistan is quite diverse, and there are approx. 340 species found in both coastal and inland fisheries. As of now, Pakistan has a fleet of approx. 29,000 marine fishing vessels that employee about 130,000 full time employees, with approx 75,000 working in the industry part-time. Two-third of the fleet operates along the coastline of Sindh, whereas the rest of it operates in Baluchistan. The main modes of fishing in Pakistan are: “trawlers, gillnetters, Doonda boats and Hora”, while the trawlers are banned in the province of Baluchistan, they are found across the Sindh coastline.
Over the course of past 30 years, the number of fishing fleet has increased whereas the biomass of the demersal stock comprising of roughly 250 species of fish has fallen over the course of past thirty years. Pakistan’s first fish stock assessment conducted by the Fisheries Resource Appraisal in Pakistan Project (FRAPP) conducted in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Pakistan suggested that most of fishery resources were overfished. There are fourteen major fishing resources out of which, nine are already depleted. Overfishing is one of the biggest hazards to fisheries in Pakistan. Therefore, one of the key issues is overcapacity, or the lack of proper and managed access to both coastal and inland fisheries leading to overharvesting.
Another underlying problem in the system is a lack of coordination and cooperation between the governmental institutes and both private and government research centres. The research projects conducted to collect information about fisheries yield, genetics and environmental factor impacting the growth of fisheries is minuscule. Not only this, there are barely any training programs to empower the local fishermen; coupled with unregulated harvest of the fisheries, it becomes a contributing factor in the depletion of fishing resources. Not only this is the case, even in the national development programs, not much importance given to the development of aquaculture.
Another major contributing factor in overfishing is poaching. A major poaching threat is Indian fishermen dabbling into Pakistani waters, and fishing resources. A huge loss is incurred by our economy owing to the illegal harvesting done by the Indian fishermen. On June 5th, 2018 the International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing was observed for the first time, and on that day the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) called out the Indian poaching practices in Pakistani waters. According to sources, hundreds of illegal Indian boats are seized every year by the Maritime Agency of Pakistan. The situation calls for stricter Port State Measures to regulate the poaching activity.
The writer is working as a Young Parliamentary Fellow at National Assembly of Pakistan.