Fishermen demand fully fledged policies

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KARACHI:

Pakistan’s neglected fisheries sector needs fully fledged policies to become a major industry and give fisherman the status of industrial worker, said the head of a fishermen body.

“We appeal to both federal and provincial governments to formulate better policies on marine and freshwater fisheries so that it might be a major industry. We also demand that the government give the status of industrial worker to fisherman so that they may get all facilities as a worker,” Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Chairman Ghulam Mustafa Miran said while talking to Daily City News.

He said that the government must conduct proper and comprehensive research on various kinds of fish and their breeding to develop this long-neglected sector immediately.

Policymakers must strive hard to get ban on fish export lifted, imposed by the European Union due to unhygienic condition and by the US on the allegation of catching turtles in fish net. Local fishermen never catch turtles and most of them have installed devices to release turtles if they come into the net during fishing. He said that if this industry flourishes, it could bolster the national economy.

Miran said that around 2.5 million to 3 million fishermen and women scratch their living from 1,209 freshwater lakes of Sindh in different districts and they catch fish in open sea.

There are around 4 million fishermen and women in the country including 3 million in Sindh and Balochistan as it is a huge industry of poor people.

He said that the sea was eroding 40 acres daily from the sides of Thatta, Sujawal and Badin and it annihilated around 2.5 million acres of land.

He asked for implementing Article 73 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as a mutual gesture of goodwill to release fishermen of both Pakistan and India who mistakenly violate sea limits as there is no boundary wall.

Sometimes Pakistani fishermen cross into Indian waters where they are arrested and detained for six months to 10 years.

Noted biologist Dr Abdullah G Arijo said that the country is blessed with rich fishery potential which lies in the northern part of the Arabian Sea and retains a coastline of about 1,120 km with a broad continental shelf. Its exclusive economic zone spreads to 200 nautical miles from the coast.

There are thousands of fishing boats in the coastal areas of the country which operate in shallow waters and in offshore areas. These fishing boats undertake fishing trips lasting for a couple of hours to weeks depending on the type of fishing.

He said that Pakistan lagged behind Bangladesh in terms of fish export for want of fish due to hunting during breeding season from June to August. He stressed the need for promoting aquaculture (fish farming) industry, ornamental fish (for aquarium), fish mill or fish feed, breeding more fish, ban on fishing during breeding season and the like.

Answering queries raised by the fishermen body and the biologist, Sindh Marine and Coastal Development Director General Fisheries Dr Ali Muhammad Mastoi said that the department concerned was trying its best to give the status of labourer to fishermen, who would get it soon.

“The department is always busy promoting fisheries and research, when it comes to fish export; fishermen are responsible for this because they are careless about sanitation and reluctant to install a system to locate position and avoid intruding water limits,” he said.

“A couple of private companies are entering both marine and freshwater aquaculture on various places of Sindh to promote it, while the department is also breeding shrimps in the first marine hatchery in Hawksbay.”

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