What A Catch!

A calm beach with wooden fishing boats on the water
A calm beach with wooden fishing boats on the water

India has rolled out several schemes to boost the production and export of fish products

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By Aftab H. Kola

Published: Mon 15 Aug 2022, 12:00 AM

Globally, fisheries is an industry worth $410 billion and employs approximately 60 million people. In India, it's the primary source of livelihood for a large number of communities, especially those living in coastal areas and near water bodies.

Fisheries is considered a sunrise sector that provides food, nutrition, and employment. It provides livelihood to more than 16 million fisherpeople and fish farmers at the primary level and a few more lakhs along the value chain. India has an 8,118-km-long coastline spread over nine states and four union territories. There is another 2.02 million sq km of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and half a million sq km of continental shelves. The EEZs comprise 0.86 million sq km on the western coast, 0.56 million sq km on the eastern coast, and 0.60 million sq km around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

From these marine resources, India has an estimated fisheries potential of 4.41 million tonnes. Similarly, it has 3.15 million hectares of reservoirs, 2.5 million hectares of ponds and tanks, and 1.25 million hectares of brackish water area. The country now has a dedicated Department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairy. With a current budgetary allocation of Rs 20,000 crore, the Department of fisheries is taking a slew of measures to boost the sector.

The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)

In 2020, the government of India gave a fillip to the sector by announcing a new flagship scheme called the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) with a budgetary allocation of Rs 20,050 crore. The scheme is aimed at addressing critical gaps in fish production and productivity, infusing innovation, leveraging modern technology, enhancing post-harvest infrastructure and management, modernising and reinforcing value chain and traceability, and creating a framework for robust fisheries management and fishers’ welfare. The focus is also on creating awareness for harnessing fisheries' potential in a sustainable, responsible, inclusive, and equitable manner. The country has set a target of producing an additional 70 lakh tonnes of fish products, exporting Rs 1 lakh crore worth of fish products, and creating 55 lakh jobs in the coming years. Besides the PMMSY, other major schemes of the department of fisheries are the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund and the Kisan Credit Card scheme.

Major organizations include the National Fisheries Board, the Coastal Aquaculture Authority, the Central Institute of Coastal Engineering for Fishery, the Central Institute of Fisheries, the Nautical and Engineering Training, the Fisheries Survey of India, and the National Institute of Fisheries Post Harvest Technology and Training.

Fish statistics

According to the Department of Fisheries' annual report for 2021-22, India is the third-largest fish-producing country in the world and accounts for 7.96 percent of global production. The total fish production during the financial year 20-21 was estimated at 14.73 million metric tonnes (MMT) with a contribution of 11.25 MMT from the inland sector and 3.48 MMT from the marine sector.

Being one of the major contributors to foreign exchange earnings, marine products exports during FY 2020-21 stood at 1.15 MMT valued at Rs 43,717.26 crores notwithstanding the market uncertainties due to the pandemic. The US tops the list with imports worth USD 24,047.15 million corresponding to a share of 41.15 percent in dollar terms.

Growing catch

Fish production has been on the rise in India. Total fish production stood at 8.67 MMT in 2011-12, rising to 10.26 MMT in 2014-15, and touching 14.16 in 2019-20 and 14.73 in 2020-21. In aquaculture, India is second only to China.

It is estimated that 1.9 million fishermen in India make a living off fishing, without counting those employed in the processing, sale, and handling of seafood products. India’s Commerce Ministry notes that about 80,000 mechanised fishing vessels currently are in use along with 75,000-odd motorized fishing boats and 50,000 traditional non-motorized fishing craft.

Until 2000, marine fishing accounted for major fish production. Since then, inland aquaculture has made rapid strides. Today, it accounts for about 75 per cent of India’s domestic production. In 2019-20, out of 14.16 MMT, marine fisheries accounted for 3.72 MMT and inland fisheries 10.43 MMT.

A sea change underway

In a determined bid to enhance fish production, India is diversifying into fish production areas like integrated fish farming, cold water fisheries, cage fishing, riverine fishers, capture fisheries, brackish fisheries, etc. The recent measures have targeted intensive aquaculture in ponds and tanks through integrated fish farming, carp polyculture, freshwater prawn culture, and the development of riverine fisheries. Fish production through aquaculture should be increased substantially as the wild catch is declining. A recent consultative meeting of scientists and aquaculture farmers called for drawing up a plan for increasing inland fish production, including aquaculture, and suggested a comprehensive approach involving various stakeholders and government departments to address issues confronting the sector.

Modernising of fisheries harbours

Another thrust area is the modernising of fisheries harbours. The lack of adequate infrastructure facilities in fishing harbours and landing centres has resulted in post-harvest losses and a reduction in the quality of fish landed, which in turn reduces the cost realization. The harbour modernisation project envisages setting up the latest facilities in auction halls, construction of a fish packing hall-cum-truck parking area, improvement of sanitation and water supply facilities, improvement of electrification and drainage, resurfacing of wharf back-up enclaves, modernisation of existing buildings, construction of finger jetties, renovation of RCC jetties, reflooring of wharf frontage area, building rainwater harvesting system, construction of chilled fish storage facilities, and construction of chilled ice plants and cold storage, processing plants, floating dock, etc.

About the author:

Aftab Husain Kola is a prominent journalist who has worked with 'Times of Oman', Muscat for 12 years. Besides, he has regularly contributed to prominent newspapers like 'Arab News', 'Saudi Gazette', 'Deccan Herald', 'Indian Express', 'The Hindu', 'Khaleej Times','Al Arabiya English', 'Muslim World League Journal' and 'Brunei Times as' well as many inflight magazines among others. Kola has also authored two books.

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