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Small Scale Fisheries of Balochistan ;Too Important to Ignore

While the world is contemplating strategies to mitigate economic losses caused due to COVID 19 pandemics, focus is more on indigenous opportunities available within any country. For rehabilitation of local economies, small scale fishing provides coastal communities an enormous potential to support food security, nutrition, livelihood and national economy in coming years. Small scale fisheries have secured a priority position in the blue economy dialogue and guidelines on developing sustainable modals to gain more financial dividends are easily available. Keeping in view, review of Small Scale Fisheries of Balochistan is coved in ensuing paragraphs, with a hope to be considered as a potential blue economy sector for future economic planning.

Fishing is traditionally been an important economic activity along the coast of Balochistan; commonly known as Makran coast. Covering about 634 Kilometres, it represents 63% of the total coastline of Pakistan. The Balochistan fisheries contribute only about 27 percent in national fish catch. It is estimated that about 70% of the labour force of the coastal districts is engaged in the fishing or the fishery related businesses. There are 8 major fishing centers along the Balochistan coast which includes Gaddani, Dam (Sonmiani), Ormara, Pasni, Gwadar, Surbander, Pishukan and Jiwani. In addition to it, roughly 30 small fishing settlements along the coast are also contributing into the national economy.

Along the Makran Coast, operationalistaion of Gawadr Port have opened avenues for likely export of processed fish from the area, thus developing seafood processing plants near Gwadar, Jiwani and Pasni will ensure good returns. Aligned with the principles of blue growth, lucrative investment opportunities are available for middle level investor in fisheries value addition services like tin /can manufacturing, packaging material, ice factories etc. In addition, the Government of Balochistan also calls for investment for construction of fish harbours/jetties, fiber glass boat building yards, fishing net manufacturing units and establishment of boat repairing workshops.

The Balochistan fisheries contribute only about 27 percent in national fish catch. It is estimated that about 70% of the labour force of the coastal districts is engaged in the fishing or the fishery related businesses

Although the traditional fisheries along the Makran coast is predominantly based on wild catch, but trending fish culture practices can bring in more profits to small scale fishers and contribute to ‘go blue economic drive’. According of official sources of Government of Balochistan a vast area of land is available for establishing fish farms on lease. It is envisaged that growing population and tourism in the province will also bring in investment opportunities for shrimp farming to meet the demand for local consumption. In fact, natural habitat at Pishukan, Gunz, Kalmat, and Jiwani bays on coast of Balochistan are considered most suitable for mariculture due to rich biodiversity. Some of these areas are being considered to designate as MPAs, but according to some experts, an integrated management approach towards these areas considering socio-economic, ecological as well as governance traits will be more advantageous in all aspects.

Small scale fisheries in Balochistan offer substantial potential of seafood production, but the fact is that no explicit rules for small scale fisheries are available in Pakistan. Small fisheries settlements are governed under generalised fisheries policies. In addition to it, lack of basic packaging and fish handling facilities are hampering the fish exports and also cause fish loses in term of economic value by 20-25 percent. Another threatening trend, revealed about Balochistan’s small scale fisheries in a report by IUCN (2019), indicates that persistent efforts have increased the fish catch from Makran coast, but overall economic dividends have been decreased due to low quality catch.

To deal with issues, provincial fisheries department of Balochistan has been mandated for management of fisheries in maritime zones of Makran coast. In addition to their congenital tasks like improve conditions of fish harbours, carry out trainings and awareness programmes for the fishermen, promote fish/shrimp aquaculture under land lease policy, undertake lab /field research, stock assessment surveys at various marine districts, monitor fish ban and developing artificial reefs and lending sites along Balochistan coast, the department also has been mandated goals beyond their institutional capacity. These include surveillance at sea, establish special fisheries courts, magistrates to deal with fishing related offences, establish Tsunami and cyclone warning and prevention centers in coastal Villages, establish marine protected areas, environmental conservation and mitigation for pollution, deal will IUU fishing in offshore waters and perform Search and Rescue(SAR) operations. In fact they also look after the fish export from Gwadar export zone. It is pertinent to highlight that Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), having patronage of international bodies like IMO and IHO is the prime national organisation mandated and suitably equipped to perform SAR and monitor all kind of illegal activities at sea. In fact, in pursuit for larger engagement with Balochi fishermen, PMSA also extends necessary help/guidance for uplifting of fishers and adoption of modern fishing techniques. However, the retrieval of fishery powers from PMSA by the Government of Balochistan will defiantly cause challenges in effective management of fisheries as well as related maritime issues in territorial sea of Balochistan. It does not require an emphasis that Fisheries department, Gov. of Balochistan lacks scope as well as capacity in terms of material, technological, financial, workforce to perform task beyond their innate character.

Government should introduce support policies and reforms for fishery sector and seafood industry. Lead can be taken from FAO guidelines for small scale fisheries under blue economy 2018 document. It is imperative to publicise and promote the opportunities available in the fisheries sector appropriately at national level. Further, Fisheries department at Balochistan has to be equipped with suitable financial support, adequate human resource, modern trainings and be provided regulatory assistance to meet the set targets. Furthermore, the issue of overlapping responsibilities needs to be rationalised to avoid any mismanagement and wastage of funds, efforts should be centralised. In reality, while national government is determined to attain maximum benefits from blue economy, the provincial government should also do the needful and must realise that the small scale fisheries of Balochistan are too big to ignore. Prudent and active planning is required to trigger this sector as a resource to restrain the economic crunch with our ‘own resources’.

Writer is IOI Ocean Ambassador to Pakistan and a Maritime Researcher at NIMA, Karachi


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