Government’s initiatives for a robust fishery sector
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General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population – Fishermen communities
General studies 3
- Issues related to Fisheries Sector
In News: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a new scheme to promote processing in fishery sector and allocated an estimated Rs 3,737 crore for the newly carved out Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying
- The new ministry was formed in order to promote the allied farm sector that has huge potential to help achieve the government’s target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
- Creating a separate department for fisheries in the Union government is a significant step. Fisheries are the primary source of livelihood for several communities.
- A concentrated effort by an independent department could help the government achieve its objective of doubling farmers’ income, provided its policies address the challenge of sustainability.
- Of the total budget allocated to the new ministry, Rs 2,932.25 crore is estimated to be spent on various schemes to promote animal husbandry and dairying, while Rs 804.75 crore for fisheries sector in the current fiscal.
Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)
- Will be established under the Department of Fisheries for a robust fisheries management framework
- Will address critical gaps in the value chain, including infrastructure, modernisation, traceability, production, productivity, post-harvest management, and quality control
India and Fishery
India is the world’s second-largest fish producer with exports worth more than Rs 47,000 crore. Fisheries are the country’s single-largest agriculture export, with a growth rate of 6 to 10 per cent in the past five years. Its significance is underscored by the fact that the growth rate of the farm sector in the same period is around 2.5 per cent.
The ‘fisheries and aquaculture sector’ is recognized as the sunshine sector in Indian agriculture. It stimulates growth of number of subsidiary industries and is the source of livelihood for a large section of economically backward population, especially fishermen, of the country. It helps in increasing food supply, generating adequate employment opportunities and raising nutritional level. It has a huge export potential and is a big source of foreign exchange earnings for the country.
Fishery is basically a State subject and the primary responsibility for its development mainly rests with the State Governments.
However, like in rest of the world, India’s fisheries sector faces the challenge of sustainability. The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture reports note that nearly 90 per cent of the global marine fish stocks have either been fully-exploited, or over-fished or depleted to an extent that recovery may not be biologically possible.
In order to meet the ever-increasing demand for animal protein, global fish production should touch 196 million tonnes by 2025 — it currently stands at 171 million tonnes. But India has the potential to bridge this gap provided it concentrates on aquaculture — fish farming. The country has a comparative advantage in this respect. It has a marine fisher population of 3.5 million; 10.5 million people are engaged in inland fishery and fish farming.
However, the productivity in both sectors is low — in terms of per fisher, per boat and per farm. In Norway, a fisherman/farmer catches/produces 250 kg per day while the Indian average is four to five kg. However, the performance of this sector in India is impressive when one compares it with the average growth of the fisheries sector all over the world.
Neel Kranti (Blue Revolution) plan to triple the country’s earning from fish exports; aims at increasing fish production by 50 per cent to 15.2 million tons and triple the export earnings through the same to Rs 1 lakh crore by year 2020.
The scheme adopted a two-pronged approach: Sustainable capture fishery to harness marine and inland water resources and expanding the horizon of fish farming through increased coverage, enhanced productivity, species diversification and better market returns.
A new Blue Revolution is an achievable target. But if the lessons from the first Blue Revolution between 1987 and 1997 are not learnt then the new Blue Revolution can become counterproductive. The Blue Revolution 2.0 will succeed only if its growth revolves around sustainable forms of aquaculture.
The Way Forward
India’s aquaculture sector, however, has the potential to upstage China and, in the process, create greater employment opportunities, increase the volume of exports, strengthen the rural economy and contribute substantially to the country’s GDP. But, to raise its game, India will need fresh strategies or rather a 2030 Master Plan for this important sector –
- Lay special thrust on increasing productivity in inland fisheries along with full utilisation of the country’s deep sea fishing potential.
- It is true that China has the innate advantage of more than twice the coastal line of India and has larger areas of inland water resources and reservoirs. But, that should not deter India because it has one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) areas of over 2 million sq km compared to China’s 0.88 million sq km.
- The development of EEZ calls for new systems and large-scale deployment of offshore aquaculture activities of high value species.
- Ocean ranching is one area which will yield rich social dividends, without damaging the ecosystem.
- India also needs a single uniform national data on marine fisheries because authentic data truly reflect ground realities which in turn help in efficient planning for the future.’
- Leveraging tech
- China has already brought in 5G technology to its offshore aquaculture activities to increase output and promote tourism. A few dedicated satellites for the management of fisheries is required.
- Further, stringent laws and their enforcement ensuring habitat protection should be part of the 2030 Master Plan, as also a quality policy protecting the names of specific species uniquely linked to the country’s geography using geographical indication (GI).
- India’s approach to inland fisheries too needs a dynamic policy shift to align with the 2030 Master Plan because the sector continues to suffer from under-utilisation and poor yield stemming from traditional fish culture practices.
- For better utilisation of our coastal, brackish and inland resources, India needs to create broodstock banks for the diversification of cultivable species. It also needs to introduce cost-effective open-pond re-circulatory system and integrated multi-tropic, multi-species farming. Biosecurity, aquamimicry and biofloc are other innovative aquaculture practices which can be put into use to achieve higher yields at reduced cost.
- Farm upgradation and automation using AI/IOT, instrumentation, sensors, underwater telemetry and other cyber-physical systems of production are important for the industry.
- The country should also look at the cultivation of macro and microalgae since it requires limited space. Growing at 10 times the rate of terrestrial plants, algae matures quickly and results in a comparatively higher yield. Additionally, the nutritional value of algae supports its potential use as a main ingredient in feeds. This will take away the dependence on fish meal for production of animal feeds.
- Increased area of cultivation and yield is one thing while product marketing is another. Achieving the former would be of no use if the products are not market-ready. It is here we need to factor in processing and value addition. Currently, India does value addition only to a negligible 10 per cent of the total catch while the rest is sold as a commodity, susceptible to the exploitation of the primary producers by the middlemen.
- Role of logistics
- Food processing and marketing cannot become complete in the absence of logistics. A robust logistics support requires complementary infrastructural facilities like cold chain and storage facilities to handle peak harvests.
- Creation of cold chains can help reduce spoilage losses which are currently at 30-35 per cent.
- Marketing infrastructure and cloud-based market intelligence should also be put in place.
- India should also take the lead in empowering the discernible fish fans across the world by allowing them to trace the back history of the fish it cultivates as to how they were grown, what they were fed with and the methods by which they were caught and processed. It means a quality certification authenticating globally accepted good management practices involving the twin elements of sustainability and traceability both for the marine and inland sectors.
- Sustainability being the pivot of 2030 Master Plan, there should also be efforts to integrate aquaculture and agriculture to boost farmers’ income.
The Economic Survey 2018-19 has called for “greater emphasis” on allied sectors with a major focus on dairy, poultry, fisheries and rearing of small ruminants in order to transform the rural economy. Bringing allied sector such as fisheries in focus can help the development of fishing communities and fisheries as an occupation.
India exported fish worth ₹45,000 crore in 2017-18 and has the potential to scale up this figure to ₹4,50,000 crore. Also the world’s appetite for fish and fish-related products is growing steadily and the $232-billion industry is expanding at a rate of 6 per cent annually. But, the country needs a definite roadmap, a clutter-free direction, and loads of fresh ideas to navigate its way to reach the goal of the new Blue Revolution.
- Marine capture fishery comprises largely of small fishermen who operate traditional boats — either non-motorised vessels or boats with a basic outboard motor. These vessels cannot operate beyond near shore waters. High value species such as tuna cannot be caught by fishermen who use these vessels. This means that while the near-shore coastal waters are highly overfished, the high value fish stock proliferates in the deep seas.
New National Policy on Marine Fisheries
- The new policy provides guidance for promoting ‘Blue Growth Initiative’ which focus on ushering ‘Blue Revolution’.
- The policy talks of introducing deep-sea fishing vessels and assisting fishing communities to convert their vessels and gears for the waters beyond.
- The policy envisages intensive fish farming through increased stocking of seed, better feed quality and diversification of species.
- Innovative practices such as re-circulatory aquaculture system aim to realise the goal of more crop per drop.
- The government has invested in hatcheries to meet the ever-increasing demand for good quality fish seed.
- Productivity of freshwater fish farms and productivity of brackish water coastal aquaculture has gone up.
Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund
- The investment of Rs 3,000 crore in the Blue Revolution is being supplemented through the Rs 7,523-crore Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund. This will meet the capital investment requirement of this sector.
Challenges and issues facing the fisheries development
- Lack of accurate data on assessment of fishery resources and their potential in terms of fish production
- Slow development of sustainable technologies for fin and shell fish culture
- Low yield optimisation
- Harvest and post-harvest operations
- Landing and berthing facilities for fishing vessels
- Welfare of fishermen
Connecting the Dots:
- Fishing and fishermen communities are closely aligned with farming and are crucial to rural India. Examine.
- Examine the bottlenecks associated with the current Fisheries Sector in India. Also suggest ways to address them.
- What is Blue Revolution? Examine why the creation of a separate Fisheries Department is significant.