Indian Fisheries

Managing India’s Marine Fisheries

By: Staff Reporter

Out of an estimated 30 million species of flora and fauna on earth, the catalogued list is only 1.4 million species, with nearly 20 percent from the oceans. However, the exploited marine resources belong to a few hundreds of species only. Most countries, including India, have relied on coastal fishing to provide for the protein requirements of their population. Coastal fishing is a source of sustenance , subsistence and employment for a significant section of the population. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s report (OECD) the oceans contribute 1.5 trillion dollars annually in the value added to the economy of a country.

Below is the country wise total aquaculture produce of some leading aquaculture producers of the world, based on data from OECD (In tonnes):

Country 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Australia 73324 75911 81483 79819 74840 90990 96848
Austria 2167 2904 3126 3237 3390 3503 3483
Belgium 539 101 277 212 241 82 44
Canada 16341 169706 184910 168015 139732 18374 200765
Chile 713241 969 1075547 1045718 1227359 1057742 200765
Czech Republic 20420 21010 20736 19357 20135 20200 1050177
Denmark 3615 35918 34586 37707 34382 35867 20952
Estonia 573 388 581 733 870 799 36337
Finland 11772 11275 12659 13613 13465 14877 868
France 203402 19411 2015548 200596 180790 163732 14412
Germany 40694 39841 26360 25289 26032 29909 166640
Greece 121244 110809 110973 114000 104663 107162 41721
Hungary 14245 15584 15133 14918 15326 17377 123410
Iceland 5050 5309 7431 7053 8434 8383 16248
Ireland 46490 44266 36102 34198 31200 39650 15129
Israel 19895 20342 20342 22252 20166 19640 40244
Italy 153494 137041 137041 140879 20166 148763 18914
Japan 151101 1073821 1073821 1027951 148730 1105652 157109
Korea 1377233 1509226 1509226 1533446 1021849 1676485 1067994
Latvia 549 546 575 643 1567442 863 1859220
Lithuania 3191 3280 3582 4211 686 4450 788
Mexico 126238 137128 14747 111500 3836 21162 221327
Netherlands 66945 43800 46129 46525 194230 62920 629990

The Indian Scenario

The main objectives of the fishery development are to optimize production and productivity along with employment generation, improved socio-economic conditions for fisherfolks, augmentation of exports and adopting an integrated  approach to marine and inland fisheries as well as aquaculture, taking into account the needs for responsible and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

The fisheries sector occupies a very important place in the socio-economic development of India. The sector has been recognised as a powerful income and employment generator as it stimulates the growth of a number of subsidiary industries and is a source of cheap and nutritious food. More than 1.4 million fishermen and fish farmers in the country depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihood. The fisheries sector is also one of the major foreign exchange earners through export.

India is the third largest producer of fish in the world. India produced 11409.45 tonnes of fish in the time period of 2016-2017 according to the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries of India’s report. Below is the state wise distribution of fish production in the country of India based on data from the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries of India 2016-2017:

Sl.No. State Total Fish production (in tonnes)
1. Andhra Pradesh 2766.19
2. Arunachal Pradesh 4.11
3. Assam 306.60
4. Bihar 510
5. Chhattisgarh 376.80
6. Goa 117.89
7. Gujrat 821.10
8. Haryana 144.21
9. Himachal Pradesh 12.48
10. Jammu and Kashmir 18.80
11. Jharkhand 145.16
12. Karnataka 557.49
13. Kerala 608.72
14. Madhya Pradesh 138.69
15. Maharashtra 662.91
16. Manipur 32.00
17. Meghalaya 0.01
18. Mizoram 7.63
19. Nagaland 8.61
20. Odisha 608.10
21. Punjab 112.13
22. Rajasthan 50.20
23. Sikkim 0.40
24. Tamil Nadu 669.31
25. Telangana 198.92
26. Tripura 72.45
27. Uttarakhand 4.30
28. Uttar Pradesh 617.69
29. West Bengal 1701.82
30. Andaman and Nicobar Islands 38.81
31. Chandigarh 0.13
32. Dadra and Nagar Haveli 0.00
33. Daman and Diu 24.02
34. Delhi 0.72
35. Lakshadweep 29.80
36. Puducherry 50.25

According to the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB)under the Government of India, over 14 million people are engaged in the fisheries sector of the country. Also, the Indian fisheries sector is a vital player in providing nutrition to the food basket of the country. The fisheries contribute 1.1 percent in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 5.15 per cent of the agricultural GDP of the Country.

Fish and fish products have emerged as one of the largest sectors in the agricultural exports of India. According to the NFDB 10.51 lakh tonnes of fish and fish products in terms of quantity and Rs 33,442 crores in monetary value, have been exported during the current financial year. This accounts to almost 10 percent of the total export done in the country and 20 percent of the total agricultural exports done in this financial year.  India exports over 50 different types of fish and shellfish products in 75 different countries of the world.

Below is the table for the Marine Fishery resources in India for the year of 2018, as recorded by the NFDB:

Coastline 8129 kms
Exclusive Economic Zone 2.02 million sq. km
Continental Shelf 0.506 million sq. km
Rivers and Canals 1.91,024 km
Reservoirs 3.15 million hectares
Ponds and Tanks 2.35 million hectares
Oxbow lakes and derelict waters 1.3 million hectares
brackish waters 1.24 million hectares
Estuaries 0.29 million hectares

India, with its long coastline of 8129 kms  and equally large area under estuaries, backwaters and lagoons is highly amenable for developing capture as well as cultural fisheries.

Potentially high benefits come with equally high risks of ecological deterioration through overfishing, killing of unwanted by-catch and habitual destruction.

Commercialization and over capitalism of the fishing sector coupled with the growing demand for marine products in both domestic and export markets have led to competition among various categories of fishers and resorting to unsustainable and destructive types fishing practices. It is therefore, important to integrate fisheries into coastal zone management for ensuring sustainable yields, while protecting the valuable areas and species.

Indian Fisheries – Problems and issues

Unsustainable lifestyles of the affluent sections of the population and the possible inability to meet the genuine needs of the poor for food, fuel, fodder and water have contributed to the general degradation of the environment in the recent years.

The marine fisheries sector was only at a subsistence level before Independence, marked by the use of small scale crafts and gear operating close to the shore. The introduction of small mechanized boats with trawl nets has resulted in the continental shelf. In the early seventies, purse seiners were introduced for the first time to exploit pelagic fishery resources.

Indigenous crafts were motorized first in Gujarat and later in all the maritime states. From the mid-seventies larger fishing vessels and sophisticated fishing gear has been used. Besides purse seiners, high opening fish trawl nets are also employed to catch fish at greater depths as well as in the columnar waters. The conventional cotton yarn used for fabrication of nets has been replaced by stronger and more efficient synthetic material. Infrastructure for handling , preservation , processing and marketing of fish has also improved with the setting up of ice plants and storage facilities. Major and minor fishery harbours complete with berthing facilities and road links to fish landing centres have been created. These efforts have boosted the export quantities of marine products.

Aquatic pollution and habitat destruction of the coastal waters deeply affect the sustainability of fisheries and quality of fishery products. Major coastal activities causing pollution include discharge of raw or partially treated industrial and urban wastes, harbour activities including fish landing, cargo handling, dumping of ship washings, spilling of oil, ores, oil exploration, oil slicks, land runoff etc. Industrial coolant water discharge, municipal wastewater, chlor-alkali factory wastes, dredging and dumping of sediments from harbours, use of antifouling paints etc, have loaded our coastal waters with heavy metals such as cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc.

The primary aim of conserving and management of the Fishery resources at this time when every natural resource of the planet is struggling against extinction is very difficult. Measures must be taken immediately for the better understanding and sustainable exploitation of fish stock. However, any measure of compulsory reduction of the fishing effort should be coupled with social support measures for the fishermen.  

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