Fisheries in India

Fisheries in India
Posted on 21-08-2023

Fisheries: Enhancing India's Aquatic Resources

Fishing, among the oldest human pursuits, has gained paramount significance due to the burgeoning population and dwindling land resources. Particularly vital to coastal communities, fish forms a significant part of their diet. India's fish harvest comes in two main categories:

Sea or Marine Fisheries: This entails offshore and deep-sea fishing predominantly on the continental shelf, extending to depths of 200 meters.

Inland or Freshwater Fisheries: Derived from rivers, lakes, canals, reservoirs, ponds, and tanks, these also encompass estuaries, delta channels, backwaters, lagoons, and coastal lakes.

The Fishery Landscape in India

India holds the distinction of being the world's third-largest fish producer and second-largest producer of inland fish. This sector employs over 14 million people in full, part-time, or supplementary roles. From 2014-15 to 2018-19, fish production in India showed an average annual growth rate of 7.53%. India contributes 7.58% to the global fish production and 1.24% to the country's Gross Value Added (GVA). The sector contributes 7.28% (2018-19) to agricultural GVA.

Impressively, marine product exports during 2018-19 stood at 13.93 lakh metric tons, valued at Rs 46,589 crores (USD 6.73 billion), showcasing an average annual growth rate of approximately 10% in recent years.

Marine Fisheries

India's extensive coastline and expansive continental shelf provide a conducive environment for marine fisheries. Around 75% of marine fish landings occur on the west coast, with the remaining 25% attributed to the east coast. Mackarel constitutes roughly a third of the total catch. Notable producers of marine fish in India include Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, and Gujarat.

Although India boasts abundant offshore and deep-sea fish potential, merely 10-12% of this potential has been harnessed. This underutilization can be attributed to factors such as:

  1. Tropical climate, making fish preservation a challenge.

  2. Limited bays, gulfs, and estuaries compared to other countries.

  3. Seasonal nature of marine fishing due to monsoons and tropical cyclones.

  4. A significant proportion of non-mechanized boats restricting deep-sea exploration.

  5. Insufficient post-processing, transportation, and organized markets.

Freshwater or Inland Fisheries

India's inland fishery resources are among the world's richest, thriving in rivers, canals, reservoirs, lakes, tanks, ponds, delta channels, backwaters, and lagoons. Major river systems like the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Indus, and more contribute significantly. About 75% of the country's inland fish are caught in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra.

Challenges and Measures

India faces challenges such as conflicts with Pakistan and Sri Lankan navies over fishing territories, as well as concerns over Chinese deep-sea fishing trawlers. To address these and further enhance the sector:

  1. The 'National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2017' aims at 'Blue Revolution' through sustainable utilization of marine resources.

  2. The 'Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana' (PMMSY) aims to develop the fisheries sector responsibly.

  3. Various schemes focus on development, modernization, and data strengthening.

  4. Initiatives for welfare of fishermen and aquaculture farmers are in place.

This sector holds the potential to significantly contribute to India's GDP target of $5 trillion, requiring innovation, scientific fishing, post-processing, and strategic marketing.

Status of the Fisheries Sector in India: A Comprehensive Overview

Introduction: India, positioned as the third-largest fish producer and second-largest aquaculture producer globally, acknowledges the pivotal role of the fisheries and aquaculture industry in its economy. The Indian Blue Revolution has substantially transformed the fishing and aquaculture sectors, marking them as promising sunrise industries with substantial economic implications. In recent years, a noteworthy shift has occurred from marine-dominant fisheries to inland fisheries, where the latter's contribution to fish production has surged from 36% in the mid-1980s to an impressive 70%. Remarkably, fish production reached a record high of 16.25 million metric tons (MMT) during the fiscal year 2021-22, accompanied by marine exports worth Rs. 57,586 crores.

Leading Producer States: Andhra Pradesh spearheads fish production in India, closely followed by West Bengal.

Challenges Ahead:

  1. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing: IUU fishing presents a grave challenge, intensifying overfishing and undermining sustainability. Activities like unlicensed fishing and use of prohibited gear contribute to this problem. Inadequate surveillance systems hinder effective countermeasures.

  2. Lacking Infrastructure and Technology: Outdated fishing vessels, equipment, and processing facilities curtail sector efficiency. Insufficient cold storage and transportation capacities lead to post-harvest losses. The absence of advanced tools like fish finders and GPS limits precise fish stock location.

  3. Climate Change and Environmental Degradation: Climate change's effects—elevated sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and altered currents—profoundly impact marine ecosystems and fish populations. Shifting fish distribution, diminished productivity, and heightened susceptibility to diseases result. Pollution, habitat deterioration, and coastal development exacerbate these issues.

  4. Socio-Economic Concerns: The sector predominantly comprises small-scale and artisanal fishers who confront socio-economic obstacles. Inadequate income, limited access to credit and insurance, and lacking social security heighten their vulnerability. Gender disparities and marginalization of women in fisheries compound these challenges.

  5. Value Chain and Market Inefficiencies: Despite substantial fish production, challenges persist in accessing both domestic and international markets. Poor post-harvest handling, insufficient value addition, and deficient market connections limit profitability for fishers.

Initiatives to Address the Challenges:

  1. Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana: A flagship scheme aimed at enhancing fisheries and aquaculture sector development, fostering value chain efficiency, and boosting sustainability.

  2. Palk Bay Scheme: A targeted initiative to address issues specific to Palk Bay, focusing on sustainable resource management and livelihood enhancement.

  3. Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF): A financial assistance scheme facilitating infrastructure enhancement and modernization in the sector.

Strategies for the Future:

  1. Adoption of Aquaponics: Promote the adoption of aquaponics, a sustainable system combining fish farming and hydroponics. This method employs fish waste to nourish plant growth, conserves water, optimizes land use, and diversifies fish farmers' income sources.

  2. Cold Chain Infrastructure Enhancement: Improve cold chain facilities to minimize post-harvest losses and maintain product quality. Establish well-equipped fish collection centers linked with modern storage, transport, and processing units.

  3. Value Addition and Diversification: Encourage fish farmers to add value to their products by facilitating training and financial support for processing, packaging, and branding. Develop innovative fish-based products, expanding market opportunities and boosting the value chain.

The fisheries sector in India presents a mixed landscape of achievements and challenges. To fully harness its potential, a combination of technological, infrastructural, and strategic initiatives is imperative. By doing so, India can propel its fisheries industry towards a more sustainable, profitable, and inclusive future.

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