Worldwide attention has been drawn to the concern about possible loss of food security by the year 2010. In light of this, the FAO of the UN is reviewing the present state of food production, consumption, demand and supply and trade. Also under study are trends for the future, issues, constraints and challenges and the ways and means of maintaining the sustainable contribution of food to the growing human population of the world to the year 2010 and beyond.
Under the above-mentioned review, the contribution of fisheries to food security is being examined on a subregional basis. This document deals with the fisheries aspects of the seven nations of the South Asian subregion: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The terms of reference provided to the consultant are as follows:
This subregion is located along the north-central border of the Indian Ocean and protrudes southwards towards the central Equatorial. In spite of their geographical proximity to one another, the seven countries are significantly different in size, shape, formation, climate, population, natural resources, religion and political philosophy, but all are developing countries and fall into the same economic category.
To strengthen their economic and social standing vis-à-vis other subregions, these countries formed the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to work together for collective improvement in all spheres involving the economic and social well-being of its people. SAARC is still discussing and formulating mechanisms for regional cooperation in various aspects, and implementation of any significance is yet to be realized.
Some of the larger States have been passing through a politically unstable era, and this has affected their economic growth. Religious and cultural factors have a significant influence on the political ideologies and policies of the governments of the larger member States. Differences in political ideologies which evolved out of historical events during the formation of some of the member countries have contributed to the slow progress made by SAARC.
Maldives is a nation of 1,190 islands, and Sri Lanka is a single large island. Both nations are close to the equator. India has a large land mass and also a number of small islands in the middle of the Bay of Bengal (Andaman - Nicobar islands) and the Arabian Sea (Minicoy - Laccadive islands) which are a continuation of the chain of Maldive islands. Pakistan is on the upper part of the Arabian Sea and Bangladesh is on the Bay of Bengal, bordering the Indian Ocean. Nepal and Bhutan are landlocked States north of the Indian mainland.
Surface areas of land, inland water bodies, the continental shelf and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and populations, male-to-female ratio, life expectancy and literacy level for each of the SAARC countries are given in Table 1.
Bangladesh has a delta region of 55,598 sq miles, and over 88 percent of the area is flat alluvial and plain. It has borders with Myanmar and India and the Bay of Bengal in the south. The land is crossed by mighty rivers such as the Meghna, Padma and Jamuna and their tributaries. It is divided into 20 physiographic units which are grouped under three areas: the hills, with high-rising ones of 1,000 - 3,000 feet and low ones of about 500 feet; the terrace area and the flood-plains and hill tracts along the eastern border have forest cover. The swampy sunderbans along the southeast coast is a large and rich mangrove area significant as the nursery grounds for many of the valuable fish resources in the upper Bay of Bengal. It is inhabited by Bengal tigers and crocodiles which have restricted human intrusion.
The country is subjected to two monsoons, the northeast monsoon (NEM) from December to February and the southwest monsoon (SWM) from May to July. The climate varies from cool to warm weather during the monsoonal seasons (Table 2). Bangladesh suffers severe damage during heavy monsoonal rains and cyclones. There have been over 200 cyclones over the last 180 years, of which 48 were severe; 6 major ones killed about 1.5 million people. Total casualties over the period were 5-6 million.
Fisheries forms an important component of economic activities, but bad weather conditions constrain agriculture and fisheries outputs which contribute a large percentage of the total output. Fishing is more in inland waters. Inland fisheries is widespread and covers all rivers, tributaries and estuaries. With a heavy discharge from the major rivers, estuarine conditions prevail over a very large delta in the coastal waters of the country. The marine sub-sector is restricted to the southeastern part of the coast off the Chittagong and Cox's Bazaar areas.
Bangladesh's economy remains the poorest in South Asia, being subjected to climatic vicissitudes, lack of infrastructure and a high population growth rate. Other parameters are presented in Tables 1-4.
Bhutan is a small, landlocked State surrounded by China, India and Sikkim. It has the smallest population in the subregion. Two of its three rivers start in the high Himalayas and flow south to join the Brahmaputra. All valleys have swift-flowing rivers and streams which merge ultimately with four major river systems in the south: the Ammochu, Wongchu, Sankosh and Manas. These are fed by the perennial snows of the Himalayas. There are three climatic zones: southern, with a hot and humid climate and very heavy rainfall; the central inner Himalayas with a cool, temperate climate and rather heavy rainfall; and the higher alpine climate with less rainfall in summer. There is no evidence of a significant fishing industry. Information on fisheries resources and potentials is poor. Interaction of Bhutan with the other SAARC countries, except India, has remained at a very low level due largely to the geographic location. Transportation is mainly by road; there is no transport by rail or water. India has permitted transit by rail and also for sea shipments. Other parameters are presented in Tables 1-4.
India, the largest of the countries in the subregion, has a wide range of climatic conditions - wet and fertile to dry and arid. It has borders with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The rest of its boundaries are with the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Sri Lanka is in the Indian Ocean close to its southern tip.
The climate varies from very cold in the northernmost areas close to the Himalayas, to warm and humid in the southern part. Arid zones and desert conditions exist in some parts of the south and the north, respectively. There are many more flat plains than mountains.
Major river systems such as the Ganges, Jamuna, Cauveri and their tributaries total over 22,000 km in length. Rivers and man-made reservoirs, tanks and ponds have an area of millions of hectares.
India is primarily an agricultural nation with over 70 percent of the population engaged in it. Agricultural activities are influenced very significantly by the seasonal and annual changes in weather pattern and rainfall. The SWM and NEM prevail in India, too, and because of the large land mass, the two monsoons are felt noticeably by the eastern side and western side of the mainland, respectively. In the past, fisheries activities were also influenced by the SWM and NEM seasons, but with the development of modern facilities and technology, the fishing pattern is no longer dependent upon monsoonal weather conditions. The desert areas in the north have a rainfall of less than 127 mm and agricultural areas receive a rainfall of 11,000 mm. However, the annual variations are large and agricultural production varies accordingly. Other parameters are presented in Tables 1- 4.
Maldives consists of 1,190 islands formed by 26 atolls, an 820 km-long chain. But only 198 of the islands are inhabited. The atolls are of volcanic origin with subsequent growth of corals. They are coralline islands with very little land suitable for agricultural activities. In 96 percent of the islands, the population density is less than 1,000 and only four islands have a population of more than 4,000. About 25 percent of the total population live on the main island of Male.
Most food items, other than fish, have to be imported. Fishing and tourism are the main economic activities. The climate is warm and humid with rainfall during the two monsoons - SWM (June-Sept.) and NEM (Nov.-Feb.). Other parameters are presented in Tables 1-4.
Nepal has borders with China and India. The climate is sub-tropical and dry with the four-seasonal cycle of the northern temperate climate. The temperature in Katmandu is 30 °C in May and as low as 1.6 °C in December. Monsoonal rainy seasons are the same as in other South Asian countries, but the rains in June to September are more in the eastern part and less in the northern and western parts. There are three major rivers: the Kosi in the east, the Gandak in the middle and the Karnali to the west, but there are other smaller rivers and tributaries, with a total length of 11,800 km. All are influenced by the annual monsoonal rains. There are no large lakes but smaller bodies of water associated with the river systems. Attempts are being made to control the water supply, to avoid drought and floods. Many rivers are partially controlled with irrigation weirs and dams for hydroelectric power generation. The reservoirs created are used for fish culture. They also have ponds for fish farming. About 15 percent of the arable land is irrigated. It has the tallest mountain in the world - Mount Everest (8,848 m). Other parameters are presented in Tables 1-4.
Pakistan has borders with Iran, India, China and Afghanistan. The country is more mountainous than Bangladesh and the climate, though similar to that in Bangladesh, is not as vulnerable to monsoonal cyclones and floods. The climate is mainly dry and rainfall is variable. The Sind coast, extending from Karachi to the border with India, has a broad continental shelf and the Indus river delta with broad mud-flats, mangrove swamps and many freshwater outlets. The Mekran coast of Baluchistan is situated to the north and west of Karachi. It is mountainous with large bays and a narrow, steep continental shelf. Fish catches are larger along the Sind coast. Besides its own population of 132 million, it has about 3 million Afghan refugees seeking protection from the former USSR. Other parameters are presented in Tables 1-4.
Sri Lanka is situated very close to the southeastern coast of India. Fisheries production has been seriously affected by the ethnic problem which erupted in 1983.
The island has tropical rain-forests in the central hilly area and is generally cool, while the coastal belt is lowland, warm and humid. Some areas are arid. The NEM and SWM influence the weather in Sri Lanka. Heavy rains are associated with these two monsoons and since the island is small, NEM is also felt on the west coast of the country. Cyclonic conditions occasionally affect this country, particularly on the east coast. The NEM weather is generally cooler than the SWM period. Many rivers and tributaries exist in this country, besides the man-made reservoirs, irrigation tanks and ponds which contribute to development of agriculture, fisheries and hydroelectric power. Fisheries is an important industry. Major resources of economic importance are tea, rubber, coconut, precious stones, graphite, ilmenite, limestone, tourism and fisheries. Other parameters are presented in Tables 1-4 (Babhani Sen Gupta, 1988; SAARC, 1991).
Some of the poorest of the poor may be found among fishing and fish-farming communities in this part of South Asia, mainly among subsistence fishing households, particularly in Bangladesh. The fishing industry and fishing communities in the countries of South Asia differ significantly in their patterns of development and socio-economic conditions, influenced by their geography: coastal States, landlocked States, island States, and with and without a well-defined continental shelf. In addition, there is considerable difference in the relative areas of inland and marine waters available for fisheries exploitation, ecological characteristics of these environments, kinds of fish resources, primary fisheries, fishery management systems, other natural resources available for exploitation, cultural factors and food habits of the people.
One of the difficulties in dealing with this subject is the incompleteness and inconsistency of statistics on populations of fisherfolk and fishing units, fishing effort, estimates of surface areas of water bodies, etc. One reason for this is the lack of periodic census surveys in the fisheries sector. Table 7 has been created by using the most reliable sets of figures from all available sources. These and other issues concerning resource potentials and fisheries management have been discussed in detail by Sivasubramaniam (1994, 1996 & 1997 a+b).
The fishing industry in this subregion is dependent largely on the small-scale fisher community, both traditional and non-traditional. Only in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan do large-scale or industrial fisheries exist and most of their crews and almost the entire officer category and shore staff come from non-fishery sectors. A very small percentage of the active members of the fishing community are employed as labourers and crew members in large-scale or industrial fisheries activities.
It is estimated that there are about 5.5 million fishermen in the South Asian subregion, including full-time and part-time fishermen (Hotta, 1996). In proportion to the populations of the countries, less than 1 percent of the population appears to be engaged in fishing in any one of the SAARC countries, and more than 50 percent of the estimated number of fishermen are in India alone (Table 6). Considering that on an average there are about four members per fisherman's family, it is estimated that the total population of the fisherfolk community in the subregion may be around 22 million.
Fishing is a very long-standing tradition in this subregion going back more than a century. The traditional fishing community has generally been located along coastal areas. Involvement in fisheries for many generations has resulted in the fishing community being identified as a separate category of people in most of the coastal States, except in Maldives. On the other hand, a significant portion of those engaged in freshwater fisheries were part-time fishermen with agriculture as the other component. Those in other professions also participated in fishing during their inactive period or holidays. Recently, the percentage of full-time fishermen in inland fisheries has increased. This factor has all along been a constraint to the estimation of fisher population in inland fisheries. Except in Maldives where fishermen are engaged only in marine fisheries, the estimated number of fishermen for each State given in Table 6 refers to a total for marine and inland fisheries, including inland culture fisheries.
In Maldives, the entire population is considered to be a traditional marine fishing community. There are no freshwater bodies there. Many of the members of fishing households have diverted from fishing as employment opportunities in other sectors opened up with development of the country and expansion of tourism. The population of Maldives is also very small compared to most countries in the subregion. Consequently, the shortage of fishermen for the growing fishing industry is a continuous constraint there. With this limitation, improvements in the performance of fishing operations through motorization and the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) has contributed to an increase in productive capacity and income of fishermen. This has been further enhanced by the removal of the purchase monopoly with fixed price that the State Trading Corporation had previously had. Future expansion has to be along the same lines - further improvements to the fishing efficiency of their craft, gear and operations. The fishing community targets mainly one fishery: pole and line for tuna. Live bait collection is an essential component of tuna fishery. However, there is a reef fish fishery (hook and line or handline) during the low-season for tuna and small fisheries for beche de mer (sea cucumber). With no facilities for storing fresh fish on most of the islands, fisher women in Maldives participate actively in the processing of smoked tuna, smoked and dried tuna, dried reef fish and shark. The living conditions of the average Maldivian small-scale fishermen are not poor, except for the limited choice of locally-produced food items other than fish. Hence they have a very high fish consumption level.
In Sri Lanka, the available figures indicate that the population actively engaged in fisheries has been more or less stagnant for many years. Probably there is an exodus of fishermen into other professions, with the free education scheme and opportunities in other sectors. However, a proper census to clarify the situation is long overdue. Modernization of small-scale fisheries has overtaken the traditional fisheries in a very significant way. Small-scale fisheries are conducting shrimp trawling and oceanic tuna fishing, in addition to other common coastal fisheries. The modernization programme has provided opportunities for better income and living standards to the fisherfolk. Offshore tuna fishermen have a middle-class income or more. Those still engaged in traditional fisheries are not as well off economically. Many of them will have to change from some of the traditional methods which are proving to be uneconomical (beach seine, boat seine) or are considered destructive to fishery resources (dragnet, pushnet, stakenet and setnet). With the significant improvements to fishing efficiency of modern units, fewer traditional fishing units and fewer fishermen will be required in the coastal fisheries. However, the expanding offshore tuna and shark fisheries absorb some of the excess, and new fisheries to be developed for under-exploited/unexploited resources may help to absorb the rest.
India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are nations with a larger percentage of traditional non-motorized boats, gear and fishermen than motorized modern craft. Many of the fishermen in the first category are subsistence fishermen, without assets or other means with which to purchase better and more efficient fishing units. Considering the economic state of these countries, there are too many fishermen for the State to be able to provide financial assistance to them. Many of these fisherfolk attempt to supplement their fishing income during the lean season by working in other sectors, as labourers in agriculture, on construction sites and salterns, or by rearing livestock. In Bangladesh, with higher production from the freshwater sub-sector than from the marine sub-sector, there are proportionately more fisherfolk associated with the former than with the latter. Those engaged in the inland fisheries sub-sector are much poorer, some the poorest of the poor, than those in the marine sector. The leasing and auctioning of inland water areas and flood plains bheels result in investors bidding for them and then collecting rent from each individual fisherman opting to fish there. Too many fishermen result in each one catching only a small quantity of fish and getting a small return, of which little is left after he pays the rent. Some of these fishermen who have no land to build a house on, or the means to rent one, live with their families in the fishing craft on the river.
Women participate in the processing and marketing of fish, livestock rearing and small cottage industries. They also participate in certain fisheries such as sea-weed, sea-grass, bivalve and crab collection or even haul beach seine nets. It is in these countries that large-scale or industrial fisheries, such as shrimp and finfish trawling, are conducted. The investments are made by entrepreneurs and do not belong to active fishermen. Trawling targets many of the same species fished by traditional and modern small-scale fisheries and contributes to a number of conflict and management problems. A large quantity of juveniles of the finfish species targeted by artisanal fishermen form the bycatch of shrimp trawlers and are being discarded at sea. The other two coastal States - Maldives and Sri Lanka - do not operate any large-scale fishing vessels within their waters.
It is estimated that at least 30 percent of the traditional fisher families live below the poverty line. Very little is known about the socioeconomic conditions of inland fishermen in the South Asian countries, particularly in Bhutan and Nepal.
Fish farming communities may be of two kinds. Fish farming in freshwater and for certain brackishwater finfish species is undertaken in the backyard or on a very small scale by inland fishermen and even by those engaged in agriculture. Inland fish farming is relatively much more common in India and Bangladesh than in the other countries of the subregion and contributes significantly to the increased fish production in those countries. On the other hand, the lucrative businesses of fish farming for marine shrimp and freshwater ornamental fish are in the hands of entrepreneurs. Seldom are actual fishermen engaged to work on these farms. In Bangladesh, a traditional system of shrimp farming, such as by trapping the larvae in the intertidal zone and paddy cultivation plots, has been practiced by rice farmers and fisherfolk. Non-fisher entrepreneurs have invaded the coastal areas to start modern shrimp farms, and this has created conflicts between them and fisherfolk in the shrimp farm areas. Most of the modern shrimp farms in Bangladesh depend on fisherfolk, particularly women and children, to collect shrimp seed from the estuaries to stock the ponds, and this provides a very small additional income to the fisherfolk. A large number of people are engaged in this activity seasonally. This happens to a lesser extent also in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Investors in India and Sri Lanka started shrimp farming much later than those in other subregions, and have attempted to expand it too rapidly. This has resulted in many problems, particularly environmental deterioration and shrimp diseases, besides other problems that are linked to the livelihood and habitat of local fishermen. Many of those involved in shrimp trawling also have invested in shrimp farming, because of the decline in catch rate and economic returns from shrimp trawling. Because of the preponderance of non-fisher participation in shrimp culture, reliable estimates of the fisherfolk and non-fisherfolk involved in farming practices are not available for South Asia. The total fisher populations and productions from capture and culture fisheries in each South Asian nation are presented in Table 6.
Food security is a goal of all nations so that the entire population will have access to an accepted minimum level of safe and nutritious food at all times, enabling all of them to maintain a healthy and active life. On the other hand, food security at the household level is the physical and economic access to adequate food for every household member, without undue risk of losing such access (FAO, 1995a).
Food security problems at a national level in the subregion are due to many factors such as population growth rates in the past without parallel growth in economy, unemployment levels, poverty and drastic changes in weather conditions that affect agriculture and fisheries and consequently the food available for domestic consumption, export and trade. At the household level, limited resources, poverty and low literacy are constraints on the procurement and use of appropriate technology to increase production, as well as productivity at the primary sources level and diversified income-generating activities. Poor health and low output of the household become part of a vicious circle.
Fishing, like hunting, was initially for food. Increasing population raised the demand for food, particularly for food that people traditionally ate. Vegetables, the basic energy giver, became the primary food item, but fishing remained important to coastal peoples. However, in this subregion, the predominant religious and cultural traditions consider cattle as animals significant to agricultural activities such as drawing ploughs, driving irrigation mechanisms and pulling carts with agricultural produce. Cattle and sheep were used to provide manure for farms, to eat away weeds and grass and to give milk as food. Meat eating was not considered important; fish has thus become the major animal protein, with occasional consumption of chicken. Maldives, where fish was the sole animal food item, was an exception.
With subsequent developments like a better understanding of nutrition and the need for animal protein for healthy life and political and ideological changes, eating habits changed and meat-eating evolved. However, the fish-eating habit never disappeared. In fact, it continues to grow in India where culture and vegetarianism have been stronger and it took a longer time to make a change to the fish-eating habit.
Though fish is not considered an important source of energy for humans, it does provide energy ranging between 14 to 143 k Calories/gram. Surprisingly, the highest and lowest energy values are provided by a small tuna (frigate tuna) and a large tuna (yellowfin tuna), but the composition of protein and fat are the same, 23.7 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively, in both species. Presently, these two species are popular in Sri Lanka and Maldives. On the other hand, a very cheap variety such as the sardine and one of the most expensive varieties like the Spanish mackerel have almost the same amount of protein (20 percent) and fat (4.5 percent) and also provide almost the same amount of energy (125 k calories/gram) (Tory Research Lab.,1989).
With minor exceptions, fish is one of the most important components in the animal protein available to the people of the subregion. Besides its contribution to protein and its nutritive value, it is also used as a condiment - a fried piece of salted and dried fish is considered enough to flavor a whole plate of rice by many poor people in Sri Lanka, Maldives and perhaps in India also. Eating rice and dried fish (fried or curried) is an old habit in Sri Lanka which persists even today, among both the affluent and the poor.
At first, fishing was a form of hunting for food for self-consumption and to share with neighbours. With the passage of time and increase in human population, the demand for fish as a marketable food item, to be sold for domestic consumption and for export to other regions, has increased. Thus, fishing has become an industry to supply this commodity to be sold to people within the countries and to be exported for the economic benefit of the exporting nations. Consequently, it has become an industry that provides income not only to the millions of fishers and fish-farmers and their families but also to millions of others involved in fishery-related industries such as craft, gear and processing plant manufacturers, buyers and users, workshops for repairs, fish-handling and processing, storing, packaging and exporters.
The opportunity created for employment and income to millions of people is very significant at the individual level to improve food security. At the same time, the magnitude of the employment opportunity and the foreign exchange earnings realized are beginning to make a noticeable contribution to the economy at both the national and the subregional level.
As a consequence, the governments of the subregion are showing more interest in this sector: (a) for foreign exchange earnings from fisheries as an export-oriented industry; (b) to increase domestic consumption of fish as an important component of food for their people; and (c) to increase employment opportunities in this sector.
Bangladesh initially had institutions and administrative machinery geared primarily for freshwater fisheries, and Pakistan had the major components of marine fisheries. Development of marine fisheries in Bangladesh started only about two decades ago and even today, marine fisheries contributes only about 20 percent to total fish production; the balance is primarily from freshwater fisheries and aquaculture. Marine fisheries are primarily small in scale, except for the fleet of about 52 industrial-scale shrimp and finfish trawlers. The vast extent of estuarine waters provides a very large nursery area, including the sunderbans, which remain as one of the major nursery areas for larval and juvenile shrimps that maintain the recruitment for the shrimp trawl fisheries of Bangladesh and India. Traditional set bagnet fishery in the rivers and estuaries is more of a subsistence fishery by the poorest of the fisherfolk and is detrimental to the resources. One diadramous species, the hilsa shad (Tenualosa ilisha) forms about 20 percent of the total catch and 70 percent of the marine catch. Because the estuarine waters spread very far out to sea, the common coastal pelagic group, clupeids, are virtually absent, and other important groups, mackerels (Rastrelliger kanagurta and R. brachysoma) and scad (Decapterus spp.), live close to the bottom, beyond the 100 m depth.
The entire coastline is subject to some form of traditional shrimp and finfish culture, either with enclosures for trapping juveniles and larvae during high tide or with modern shrimp culture ponds. In recent years, modern shrimp farming practices also have been established, but the traditional system also continues to exist. Frequent inundation of the coastal belt during the rainy season impedes the establishment of hatcheries for shrimp larvae, and shrimp larvae for culture are mainly collected from the lagoons and estuaries. In spite of intensive tiger shrimp larval collection which results in the destruction of other penaeid and finfish larvae, the shrimp stocks do not appear to be affected. Inefficient systems of collection and transportation result in heavy destruction of other species and high mortality of shrimp larvae. Attempts are being made to improve these techniques. Culture of finfish is primarily in the form of culture-based capture-fisheries in freshwater. Considerable developmental activities are being undertaken to increase the productivity of the inland waters (Table 7).
Traditional systems such as water-tenures, leasing and auctioning water bodies, particularly in the flood plains and bheels are still in practice. A large number of fisherfolk are engaged in freshwater fisheries, their units small and mainly non-motorized. Their income is poor. Fish production from the marine sector is relatively small; the number of fishermen is less but investment per fishing unit is higher because of the higher price of craft, gear and motorization. There are no small-scale trawlers or purse seiners. Fisheries statistics collection is not under the umbrella of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock or the Department of Fisheries but under the Department of Statistics. Licensing of fishing units has not been practicable because of their scattered distribution along the banks of numerous rivers and riverlets. Due to the widely scattered landings of catches, a secondary collection system brings the fish to main centres or cities for marketing. A large quantity of the catches is converted into dried fish, due to lack of ice and preservation facilities close to the landing points. Cultured and captured shrimp, cuttlefish, mud-crab and dried shark, sharkfin, and air-bladder of croakers are some of the major items exported.
Women are less involved in fisheries-related activities and more in firewood gathering, paddy harvesting, straw cutting, livestock rearing, etc. (Ataur Rahman, 1993). Overfishing and intense competition for access to existing water bodies by other users are unsettled issues. However, there is good potential for the development of capture and culture fisheries in the freshwater sub-sector, with proper developmental and management approaches.
The Fisheries Department is under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock but the licensing of foreign fishing vessels, fishing gear manufacture and joint ventures are the responsibility of the Ministry of Industries.
India has no major laws restricting entry into the fisheries sectors, but the caste system in the country limits the exit of fisher caste into other vocations and also discourages the entry of other castes into the fishing community, except as entrepreneurs or under extreme strain of poverty and starvation. There is heavy concentration of fishing effort at <50 m depth and coastal resources show signs of excessive exploitation. Fisheries is almost entirely small in scale, with predominance of non-motorized craft. Large-scale fishery is restricted to trawling for penaeid shrimps on the continental shelf on the east coast and the same trawlers operate seasonally for deepsea lobster in the southwest and southeast coasts, at 200-300 m depth range. Deepwater lobster are patchy in their distribution, the catch rate drops rapidly in each patch, and overall production is not increasing significantly. Shrimp trawIing was initially conducted on the west coast but with the decline in catches, the fishery shifted to the east coast. Even on the east coast, the fishery is becoming limited to the Sand-head area in the upper Bay of Bengal, close to the sundarbans. In the areas where penaeid shrimp catches have declined significantly, the trawlers target cephalopods and finfish also, to make their operations viable. Artificial reef deployment programmes are also active in the coastal areas.
A mariculture programme has recently proliferated along the coastline and many of the shrimp trawler owners are also investing in this, in view of the declining economic situation in their trawl fishery.
A small tuna fishery (pole and line) exists in the Laccadive - Minicoy islands. Poor demand for tuna in India has retarded the development of their tuna fisheries, and the government has ventured into licensing foreign tuna longliners and trawlers, annually, to conduct tuna longlining in the EEZ on the east and west coasts and in the Andaman Sea, and demersal trawling on the Wadge Bank and in other areas on the east coast (Atul Sinha & Sampath, 1993). In 1993, India licensed 28 tuna longliners (42-60 m LOA & 400-791 Gr.t) from three Taiwanese companies, to collaborate with 34 local companies. Also three stern trawlers (56-66 m LOA & 900-1,100 Gr.t) and five paired-trawlers (42-4 m LOA & 350-360 Gr.t) from two foreign companies (Taiwanese and Spanish), to collaborate with six local companies (Vijeyakumar et al, 1995). The agreement included such conditions as training of Indian crew members, information on exploited resources within the EEZ and 20 percent of the foreign exchange earnings.
Inland fisheries is the significant contributor of fish to people in the interior part of India. Freshwater fish culture systems are of long standing, including the example of sewage-fed fish ponds in Calcutta. Reservoirs and flood-plains suffer from overfishing and environmental degradation. The catch rates and sizes of fish show signs of decline. However, any further increase in catches of fish has to come from reservoir fisheries with improved management (Sugunan, 1995).
Coastal fisheries is under the Ministry of Agriculture, while offshore fisheries is under the Ministry of Food Processing Industries. This arrangement does not seem to have worked very satisfactorily and there is a strong movement towards the reunification of these two sub-sectors under the Ministry of Agriculture (Radhakrishnan & Roy, 1994).
Maldives is unique in having primarily one type of fishery, pole and line or live-bait fishery for tuna, with a very small reef fishery to supply the tourist resorts and expatriates. This situation is the result of tuna, their primary fish resource, being available close to the shoreline because of the steep bottom configuration of the atolls. This presents a picture similar to that of gear restriction for management purposes. The country is facing the problem of manpower shortage because of the small population - about 250,000 people inhabiting only about 120 of the 1,200 islands in the country and because increasing numbers of young people are being absorbed by the growing tourist industry. This situation has indirectly brought about an unavoidable limited entry situation into the tuna fishery. The fishing craft used is basically the traditional dhoni-masdhoni (pole and line craft) and vadhudhoni (trolling line craft) that have with successive generations undergone improvements such as introduction of a deck and motorization to replace sail-power. All local fishing craft operate only as day-boats. This again gives the impression of a Fishing Area Control, forced by the limitations in the endurance of the craft. Some other improvements, such as water circulation in the bait-carrying tank and a pump-driven water-spraying system, are also being introduced. These improvements contributed to the first significant increase in tuna production without noticeable increase in fleet size.
Most of the tuna caught are exported because the demand for domestic consumption is small. In the past, the state monopoly had a system for fishermen to deliver their catches to collector vessels belonging to the State Trading Corporation for fixed prices of fish. Special carrier vessels delivered the fish to foreign buyers. This system provided a way to collect a tax on the tuna catches that were exported and utilized the tax money to import other commodities. Any excess fish or sizes not delivered to collector vessels were processed into smoked fish for local consumption and boiled and dried fish (Maldivefish) that has been traditionally exported to Sri Lanka. The system of collection and export is undergoing drastic changes at present and is expected to become more favourable to the tuna fishermen of Maldives. The second major step to increase production was to introduce Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) which provided another leap in production by increasing the catch rate without increasing the number of fishing units (Table 7). Any further increase in production may warrant drastic changes to the fishing system itself - purse seining, perhaps?
In Sri Lanka, fisheries contributes 2 percent to the national GDP; 80 percent of the production is from coastal resources and 20 percent from offshore. Of the small-scale fishing crafts, 50 percent or more are motorized. Some of these (28'-38' class) are engaged in offshore tuna and shark fisheries. A new class of offshore fishing crafts, 40'-52' in length, is being fabricated by local boatyards, according to the desires of the fishermen; these are being introduced for long voyages into the offshore range for large pelagics (tuna, billfish and sharks). Some of the craft are owned by small-scale fishermen who purchased them, using their own capital/assets, funds borrowed from banks or with the assistance of middle-men in the fishing industry. Crew members in offshore fisheries may earn around Rs10 to 25 thousand per month, while the owner realizes Rs 60-150 thousand per month. A system of crew working in shifts and appointment of a shore manager to take care of the catch and get the craft ready for the next trip with the shortest possible turn-around time is being established in this small-scale type of fishery. The pelagic fisheries have become more important in the last few decades, compared to the predominantly traditional demersal fisheries that existed prior to motorization of crafts. Fishing in the coastal areas has become intensive and entry is discouraged by the poor fishing performance of the fleets. However, this has encouraged the expansion of offshore/oceanic fisheries for large pelagics and this is the main area for development in capture fisheries. Demersal fisheries are beginning to pick up, once again, due to the rapid increase in the prices of fish. Due to internal conflicts, fisheries in the northern and eastern part of the country have declined very sharply. This has a significant impact on the country's overall fish production. The government has granted licenses to a number of foreign tuna vessels to operate from bases in the country at a time when the local fishermen have started to venture out to take the same resources.
In the freshwater fisheries of Sri Lanka, yields from the perennial tanks and reservoirs have to be increased. If management is ensured, major carps can contribute to more and higher valued yields. More reservoirs also can be brought under improved production schemes. Integrated rice and fish/prawn farming also needs accelerated development. A few years ago, the government took a policy decision to stop supporting freshwater fisheries development, on religious grounds. However, this decision has been reversed and developmental activities are being pushed to revive the fisheries and to raise the production from this sector, which had declined considerably (Table 7).
Fisheries in Sri Lanka is under the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Steps are being taken to strengthen the Extension and Management Divisions. Fisheries statistics, research and training are also under the same ministry. The National Aquatic Resources Research Agency (NARRA) undertakes not only fisheries research, but also research into non-living resources in the sea and other aquatic environments.
Pakistan's production from the marine fisheries sub-sector is treble that of the inland fisheries sub-sector. However, both marine and inland fishery production have shown unsteady trends in very recent years. It does not have any large-scale indigenous craft but foreign industrial vessels, under licence, are trawling in the offshore areas beyond 35 miles from shore. The majority of Pakistan's vessels are powered and operate primarily in the coastal waters. Penaeid shrimps form the most important category of the commercial varieties. Inland capture fisheries are in rivers, canals and reservoirs. There are about 2,000 trawlers contributing to about 30,000 mt of shrimp production, of which 28,000 mt are from the Indus river delta (Table 7).
Freshwater aquaculture is more active than brackishwater culture. Shrimp culture has yet to develop. Though some private companies have conducted successful trials using seeds imported from Sri Lanka and Malaysia, commercial activities have not begun. However, expert opinion (NACA mission to Pakistan, in 1995/96) is that Pakistan has very good potential for this activity and that 385,000 ha of the Indus river delta is suitable for shrimp culture. Freshwater fish culture has been in traditional earthen ponds for carps polyculture. Aquaculture is responsible for 20 percent of the inland fishery production.
The people of this country do not eat much fish. Though they do consume big fish during some months, small fish are seldom utilized. A massive campaign has been launched to increase the consumption of small fish. Fishermen and fish-farmers are paid a low price due to marketing constraints. Brackishwater culture of shrimp and freshwater culture of trout and freshwater prawn are actively followed at present. Fisheries is under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Cooperatives, with a Commissioner for Fisheries and a Department of Fisheries.
Fish production is mainly for domestic consumption, and fish consumption is much higher in the Baluchistan region than in Sind. Fish distribution is limited and consumption is high in the vicinity of the landing places. Exports include frozen shrimp, molluscs and finfish, dried fish and sharkfin. In 1992, Pakistan exported some frozen shrimp to India and dried fish, frozen fish and molluscs, sharkfin and fish maws to Sri Lanka. Marine resources are overexploited, particularly the shrimp resources. There is intensive exploitation and competitive fishing in inshore water and limited scope for expansion of coastal marine fisheries. The government's interventions are leading to fisheries management, and development is directed towards the offshore fisheries. There is a growing fishery for large pelagics and sharks in the offshore range. Foreign vessels are operating under licence. There is potential for Pakistan to venture into the exploitation of tuna, sharks and mesopelagics.
Fish contributes only one percent to the GDP, and shrimp export is a primary contributor to export earnings in this sector. Reduction of trawlers and introduction of a closed season is the main approach to management in the coastal waters. As a means of diverting the fishing effort from the shrimp fishery, shrimp trawlers are being converted into offshore gillnetters and longliners - at least 300 trawlers have already been converted. There are six stern-trawlers and 14 longliners operating offshore, under a `Pakistan flag' policy. Inadequate infrastructure facilities limit the expansion of Pakistan's offfshore fisheries. The policy is to expand the fisheries to cover the EEZ, and necessary steps are being taken in this direction. Additional shore facilities, besides improvement of the facilities in the Karachi harbour, will reduce the present congestion, accommodate more deep-sea vessels and provide employment opportunities. Aquaculture will expand with more hatcheries and nurseries for shrimps and finfish, pearl oyster under mariculture and also for carps in freshwater aquaculture. Concessions and incentives on import of marine diesel engines, fishing nets, hauling devices, fish-finding instruments, etc., are planned through exemption of customs duty and sales tax for individual fishermen/farmers, Department of Fisheries and Cooperatives tax exemption for five years and electricity tariff exemption for aquaculture, as for agriculture.
Nepal has freshwater rivers (395,000 ha), natural lakes (5,000 ha), reservoirs created for irrigation/hydroelectric power generation (300 ha), village ponds/tanks (5,500 ha) and paddy fields (250,000 ha) for fish production. Development of both capture fisheries and cage culture in lakes and more expanded development of aquaculture are leading to increased production. Rivers in the hills are not considered to be highly productive. Much of the koshi river system is unavailable for management, as the lower reaches of the river have been leased to the Indian government for 199 years. There has been a long standing fish trade between Nepal and India, but no record of this is available (Table 7).
Both riverine and lacustrine resources have potential for aquaculture. Development and management of the riverine fishery resources are expected to help increase production. Serious disturbance to the management of fisheries is due to the construction of irrigation weirs and hydroelectric dams which prevent the migration of fish. However, this detrimental effect may be compensated for by improved production of fish in the up-stream reservoirs and dams with an appropriate stocking programme. Though the government's highest priority for harnessing the water resources is for the development of agriculture, aquaculture development will receive equal attention. Common species are the major carps such as silver carp, catla, rohu, mrigal and common carp. Indigenous species in the lakes are the Tor tor and Chizothorax spp. but carps are presently being stocked. Cage culture is primarily of silver carp. Integrated rice and fish farming is also expected to develop.
Nepal is a net food importer, both commercially and in the form of aid. The drought of 1992, the floods of 1993 and the influx of refugees have had a severe impact on the food security situation. Access to food is a problem in the hills because of poor cultivation, and plant growth is limited by the cold. Agriculture cannot be expanded without destroying the little forest cover that remains.
Though this landlocked country also has the right to enter marine fisheries, their economic status and their desire to develop inland fisheries initially have prevented them from giving any consideration to making use of their rights to the marine resources in the Indian Ocean.
Bhutan also has freshwater resources and some fishery exists in the country. Estimated production is about 400 mt annually. It is expected that freshwater capture fisheries, fish farming and integrated rice and fish farming, may develop in the near future (Table 7).
In 1993, marine production from this subregion was 3,728,744 mt (51.4 percent), inland fishery production 2,780,594 mt (54.5 percent) and 1,713,381 mt (57.1 percent) from aquaculture. In 1994, there was a drastic change, particularly with the decline in production from inland fisheries (Table 7). Of the total of 6.5 million mt of fish produced by the subregion, the marine subsector contributed 55.1 percent, aquaculture 29.2 percent and inland fisheries 18.6 percent. India's marine fisheries (71 percent), aquaculture (84.3 percent) and inland fisheries (42 percent) made its overall contribution almost 70 percent in the subregion. Bangladesh was the only country to exceed India's contribution in any of the sub-sectors, with 46.8 percent of the inland fishery production. This has been attributed to the large-scale stocking programme adopted by Bangladesh. In the aquaculture area, India's production nearly tripled in the last decade, to reach 1.6 million mt worth $2,095 million in 1994. Carps were the major species farmed, along with coastal shrimp culture which earned about $712 million. India's aquaculture is second in the world only to China. Indian shrimp output was 92,000 mt, and in Bangladesh it was 29,000 mt. Inland fishery production from this subregion is greater because of the large area of freshwater bodies in countries like Bangladesh and India. Aquaculture production is also greater primarily because of extensive freshwater culture activities. Brackishwater and marine aquaculture development have been much less than in the neighbouring ASEAN subregion.
Overall, total fish production in the region increased at the average rate of 5.1 percent per annum between 1984 and 1994. However, there appears to have been a remarkable increase in the aquaculture sub-sector (19.7 percent per annum) during the same period. On the other hand, while the marine sub-sector increased by a reasonable 4.0 percent per annum, inland fisheries increased by 2.2 percent per annum between 1984 and 1989 but declined by 1.7 percent between 1989 and 1994. The decline was observed in India, and among other reasons, the statistical method used in the estimation may be a factor. Production estimation in inland fisheries in this region has been the subject of concern for a long time.
Freshwater fishery in India has performed well, mainly with poly-culture of herbivorous and carnivorous species cyprinids with low stocking density and traditional semi-intensive pond based farming, as a low-priced source of food for mass domestic consumption. Catla contributed 360,000 mt, mrigal carp about 350,000 mt and roho around 40,000 mt (Table 7).
Up to 1970, marine fish production increased at the rate of 6 percent per year, but between 1980 and 1990 the increase was about 2.3 percent per year. Annual productivity exhibits wide fluctuation, and the world supply of fish is becoming increasingly dependent on low-value species. Though there is an increase in production, the catch composition has changed, with slow but steady decrease of varieties such as the highly-valued demersals. According to statistics available to FAO, 69 percent of the stocks in the world are considered either fully exploited, overfished or depleted.
Among the countries with more than 100,000 mt production level in the early part of the 1980s, only Bangladesh and Pakistan exhibited average annual rates of increase in production (5.5-8.9 percent), which were well above the average for the Indian Ocean between 1984 and 1993. Others like India indicated values (3.9-1.0 percent) which were well below average for the Indian Ocean (FAO Fisheries Statistics, 1984-1993).
The main varieties of demersal fish category are: croakers, bombay-duck, lizard fish, goatfish, threadfins, skates, rays and sharks, catfish, sea bream, ponyfish, carangids, snappers, emperors, groupers. The first five varieties are predominant in the soft bottom in the northern part inside the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea, while the last four are predominant in the southern part with rocky bottom and open sea. The rest are common to both areas.
Among the small pelagics, Indian oil sardine, clupeoids, anchovies, sardinella, stolephorus, wolf-herring, and Indian mackerel are dominant in the open sea areas of the subregion. In the upper part of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India share stocks of major diadramous species such as hilsa shad, toli shad, keele shad and giant perch or barramundi. Hilsa shad is the primary pelagic species available in the coastal and inland waters of Bangladesh. In Maldives, which is without a proper continental shelf, coastal waters are those within the atoll and the outer fringes of the atolls. Various forms of coral fish, baitfish, small tunas, rainbow runner (Elagatis bipinnulatus) and Spanish mackerels (Scomberomorous species) are pelagic forms.
In addition to coastal tuna, like frigate/bullet tuna (Auxis thazard/A. rochei), kawakawa (Euthynnus affinis), longtail tuna (Thunnus tonggol), dog-tooth tuna (Gymnosarda unicolor) and oriental bonito (Sarda orientalis), some of the oceanic tuna, such as skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) and some billfishes (marlin, swordfish and spearfish), are also caught just outside the Maldivian atolls.
Most noticeable positive trends have been in the production of the tuna group, demersals, jacks and mullets, shrimps and cephalopods. Sharks and skates (primarily the demersal types), and small pelagics appear to be in a sensitive state, fluctuating without a steady trend. However, the specific country-wise situation is quite different - concerning the demersals, the picture is not so bad among the SAARC countries. It should be noted, however, that the quality of statistics is relatively poor in the SAARC region, except in Maldives.
Statistics on fisher and fishing craft/gear populations in marine and inland fisheries are incomplete for some countries, and have not been updated in many others for a number of years. The estimates of fisherfolk population in inland fisheries and aquaculture of any individual State are more uncertain than those in the marine sub-sector. Based on available information and extrapolations, it is estimated that there may be approximately 6.0 million fishers, 24 million fisherfolk and around 400,000 units of traditional and modern fishing craft of different classes in the subregion. The major concentration of fisherfolk (about 76 percent) in the Indian Ocean is in the South Asian subregion. This relative proportion correlates somewhat to the relative proportion of the fishing craft population in the subregion. Non-motorized craft are, on an average, considered to be >45 percent of the total fleets in the subregion. The percentage of industrial fishing vessels among the motorized craft is <8 percent in the subregion. Based on this information, it is evident that a very large proportion of the fisherfolk in the subregion are engaged in small-scale fisheries and predominantly in the traditional sub-sector.
Industrial trawlers operate only in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Small-scale trawlers are shrimping in Sri Lanka and trawlers do not operate in Maldives. Those countries employing industrial trawlers are facing more over-exploitation, bycatch and discard problems.
On an average, there are 15 significant types of fishing gear with a total of about 40 different variations (mainly of gillnet and hook and line), used in marine and freshwater capture fisheries. Numerous combinations of the different types and classes of fishing craft, operating different types and variations of fishing gear and targeting different species in different fishing depth zones contribute to many interactive and competitive fisheries in these developing countries. Primary ones concern the demersal fisheries of a majority of the coastal States which have combined small-scale and industrial-scale fisheries.
Assessment of productivity has serious limitations in the developing regions because of the poor recording of catches, particularly those made by artisanal/small-scale fisheries. Also, the classification of trash and discarded species varies significantly among the countries in this subregion, depending on their culture and traditions. Productivity is based on the targeted species harvested. The status of exploited stocks, discarded catch and stocks utilized in other subregions but unutilized in the South Asian subregion because of traditions and taboos are seldom accounted for in the productivity estimates. Trawl fishery data indicate that demersal fish density varied between 1-4 mt per square kilometer in different sub-areas.
With intensive exploitation of demersals, particularly shrimps, by trawlers over a long period of time, this range may have been significantly reduced and the species composition changed. This is particularly true in some of the waters off Bangladesh, Pakistan and India without significant reduction in the total production by weight, as in the case of Thai and Malaysian waters. Estimates of the potential of resources for demersal, small and large pelagic fisheries are highly variable, depending upon the methods of assessment and the author. Though many of these estimates have been subjected to critical reviews, the States continue to use some of them. Lack of reliable catch and effort statistics for each fishery is one of the major limitations to the assessments made, except in the case of Maldives.
There seems to be a significant decline in stocks of penaeid shrimps and demersals off the coast of India and Pakistan. Small pelagics, deepwater demersals and shark resources appear to have potential for some expansion in the fisheries of India and Pakistan. Recent estimates of potential yields in several fish stocks have had to be revised downwards as natural mortality rates have become better known.
There is also a growing market for the export of marine ornamental fish and other organisms, particularly from the island States. Since this market is expanding very rapidly, many of the States are rushing to establish regulations to control the collection and export of each species and to prohibit the export of rare and threatened species.
There are also fisheries that have ceased to operate or are on the verge of disappearing from some countries. These include window-pane oyster fishery, pearl oyster fishery, chank and other sea-shell fisheries which thrived and earned export income, but one or more of these fisheries have disappeared from countries like Sri Lanka and India. Another fishery that has declined, partly due to overexploitation and partly due to economic reasons, is the sea-cucumber (Holothuria) fishery. Though it continues less actively in many of the States, it declined rapidly in Maldives, due to overfishing in some of the atolls. The giant clam fishery in Maldives also declined rapidly due to intensive exploitation.
Potential. Most of the coastal resources in this subregion, are at the maximum sustainable level of exploitation or have exceeded it. The very few exceptions are: (a) the demersal components of the pelagics such as Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta) and scad (Decapterus russelli), mainly off the coast of Bangladesh and the northeast coast of India; (b) the scattered stocks of rainbow runner (Elagatis bipinnulatus) and dolphinfish (Coryphaena spp.) which require the use of FADs to aggregate them for viable catches around Maldives, Sri Lanka and India; (c) flyingfish stocks (Hirundichthys coramandelensis, Cypselurus spp.) which are presently underutilized by Sri Lanka and India. In Sri Lanka, if the ethnic problem is solved, coastal production will shoot up by at least 50 percent above the present level, with the active participation of the northern and eastern provinces. This will also ease the intensity of fishing in the northwestern and southern provinces and enhance management of fisheries in these coastal areas.
With good management measures, yields from the demersal stocks that are being intensively fished, particularly by trawlers, can be considerably improved. Reduction in the bycatch will reduce the discarding of large quantities of edible species and enable the large component of juveniles to grow bigger and be recruited to other well-managed fisheries in countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Improvement in the small marine fish-eating habit of the people of Pakistan will increase significantly the availability of fish for consumption, even without additional production. Fishing technology improvements for better management and alternatives to industrial-trawling for shrimp can contribute significantly to the management of fish resources and increase the availability of fish for consumption. To improve the food security situation, use of edible fish species for fish-meal production must be discouraged. The viability of using offal and vegetable components as fish-meal must be considered seriously.
Management of State-supported coastal fisheries has not been successful, as it has been difficult for the States to provide financial support for major reorganization and modernization, particularly in countries with large populations of subsistence fishermen, like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Offshore/oceanic fisheries in the subregion are primarily for large pelagics such as oceanic-tuna, billfish and pelagic sharks. Intensive fishing with purse seine for surface tunas such as skipjack (K.pelamis), yellowfin (T.albacres) and bigeye (T. obesus) is being conducted by distant nations (France, Spain, Japan and Thailand). Pole and line (live bait) fishery in Maldives and some of the Minicoy - Laccadive islands of India and drift-gillnet fishery in Sri Lanka exploit skipjack and yellowfin tunas. Deep-swimming, larger-sized tunas (T. albacares, T.obesus, T. alalunga, T. macoyii), billfish (I. platypterus, X. gladius, M. mazara, M. nigricans, T. angustirostris, T. audax) and large pelagic sharks and rays (mainly Carcharhinus spp., Prionace spp., Alopias spp., Isurus spp., Sphyrna spp.and Mobula spp.), and wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), are being fished intensively with tuna longline by distant nations such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan Province of China and also through joint ventures between these distant nations and coastal States such as Sri Lanka, Seychelles, India, Malaysia and others. Deepwater handlining is also conducted for larger yellowfin tuna, by some of the coastal States. A total of 782,104 mt of tunas and tuna-like species were caught in the Indian Ocean region in 1993 by 41 countries, including 10 distant nations. About 40 percent of this was from offshore/oceanic stocks. A similar estimate for sharks could be calculated due to poor species separation. However, between 12-15 percent of the total catch of sharks and skates from the Indian Ocean may account for offshore pelagic sharks.
Bangladesh has an estuarine condition prevailing up to about 25 miles from the shoreline and has marine conditions close to the southeastern part where the coastal gillnet fishery catches approximately 30 mt of Spanish mackerel and tuna annually. An offshore/oceanic fishery has not been established. India's catch of 94,368 mt of tuna and tuna-like fish in 1993 represents only about 5,554 mt (5.8 percent) which may be categorised as offshore/oceanic tuna longline catches of yellowfin, bigeye tuna and billfish (sailfish and swordfish). The rest were coastal/small tunas and Spanish mackerels from the traditional pole and line fishery in the Laccadive - Minicoy islands and the gillnet, handline and troll line fisheries off the coast of the mainland.
India has still to develop an oceanic tuna fishery but has licensed foreign vessels to conduct tuna fishery from her bases. Maldives' 78,681 mt of tuna and tuna-like fish come from their small-scale traditional pole and line fishery, with the second generation Masdhoni, within 30-40 miles from the shore. The primary species are skipjack (74.6 percent) and yellowfin (12.8 percent). Since the oceanic waters are at India's door-step, it has easy access to oceanic stocks. India has not attempted to introduce an industrial-scale tuna fishery.
Pakistan's production of 28,777 mt of tuna and tuna-like fish is primarily (96.2 percent) small tuna and spanish mackerel caught by gillnets on the shelf area. The 3.8 percent of longline catches may be from the oceanic range, but the catch composition is not available for any consideration of the type of stocks exploited. It too has not ventured into oceanic tuna fishery, though the subject has been discussed and examined for a number of years.
Sri Lanka has a well-established offshore/oceanic tuna fishery, with a fleet of locally designed and constructed, small-scale multiday boats sailing up to and even beyond the edge of the EEZ. There is a gillnet and longline combination in operation that targets tunas and pelagic sharks. Both varieties have almost equal domestic market value. Of the 54,290 mt caught in 1993 (IPTP, 1995) more than 70 percent is from the offshore/oceanic range. Researchers (Dayaratne & Maldeniya, 1995) have identified that the production in 1993 was 79,943 mt and that 73 percent of it was from the offshore/oceanic range. The offshore/oceanic pelagic shark catch in 1993 was between 10,000 and 15,000 mt. Besides the development of shrimp culture, the development of this offshore/oceanic fishery has been the most significant event in the fisheries sector of Sri Lanka in recent years.
According to surveys conducted by Dr R.V. Fridtjof Nansen and the fisheries survey of India, trawling on the continental slope (200-300m depth) for deepwater lobster (Puerulus sewelli), and some deepwater demersal finfish may also be considered as potential resources under offshore fishery, because these stocks are not being exploited by any of the coastal fisheries. Statistics on these fisheries are still to be separated and published. Vertical longline fishery for demersals on the continental slope is also commencing.
Potentials. The major offshore/oceanic resources available to all the coastal States are tuna and shark. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission has been established and the countries in the subregion have the right and the opportunity to claim a share of the Total Allowable Catch. Presently, Sri Lanka, Maldives and India take about 100,000 mt of the oceanic tuna. Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan have allowed distant nations to operate tuna vessels out of their bases under some form of licensing. They should examine the benefits and disadvantages of the licenses they have already issued to foreign vessels, in light of the operational mechanisms to be introduced. All the countries in the subregion should ensure that they establish their rights to get a proper share of the allowable catch. It is anticipated that the subregion may gain another 150,000 mt of the allowable catch under the Tuna Commission (IPTP Tuna Catch Statistics, 1994). Considerable attention has to be given to this by the subregion.
The large demersal finfish on the continental slopes of the coastal nations are unutilized at present and offer a potential resource for capturing high-valued groupers, snappers, breams, etc. Similarly, cuttlefish and squids beyond the shelf area are also underutilized. Deepwater lobster is fished only by India; none of the other nations have ventured yet to utilize this resource or other finfish in the >200 m depth range of the EEZ. Dr. R.V. Fridtjof Nansen surveys in this subregion have shown that large quantities of deepwater demersal finfish are available to be taken. But first, fish technology must be put in place to prepare the fish or products from it so that they are marketable. Research in this area is progressing too slowly for the needs in the subregion. With some catch of highly-valued exportable products such as deepsea lobsters, shrimp, cuttlefish and squid, the economic viability of exploiting the unutilized deepsea finfish will be strengthened. If successful, this should contribute to at least another 150-200 thousand mt, with India having access to no less than 50 percent of it. This is the second most important resource component on the continental slope, with potential for development in this subregion in the near future.
The amount of squids in the Indian Ocean is estimated to be around 2 million mt, and even if only 5 percent of this becomes exploitable by countries in the subregion, it will provide 100,000 mt (Garcia & Majowski, 1990).
In offshore/oceanic fisheries of this subregion, the provisions for access to export markets are tied to access to the resources. When joint ventures are engaged in, bargaining power lies in requiring that the flag State is obliged to purchase fish from the coastal State. At the same time, the coastal States must take market access into account when determining the quantity of fish to be allocated to the foreign flag State. Provisions under which the flag State is requested to provide the coastal State with information relating to access to the flag State's domestic market and for both States to cooperate in the expansion of the market for products originating from the coastal State are also very important.
The total production of this variety of fish was around 300,000 mt in 1993. Among the diadramous species fished by Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, hilsa shad (H. ilisha) stands out as the dominant species (75.0 percent), followed by kelee shad (17 percent), giant perch (5.0 percent) and toli shad (Hilsa toli) (3.0 percent) (FAO, Year Book 1994). Unlike the trends of diadramous species on the western side, toli and gizzard shad show a sharp increase in annual production, while the other two exhibit this to a lesser degree. Bangladesh relies heavily on hilsa shad as the single species that contributes most significantly to fish production. These species are not always identified and classified separately in all the countries of the subregion, and separation of their production from marine and freshwater sub-sectors is also not available. Management of these stocks and the fisheries is very urgent because any damage to the stocks of hilsa shad could cause a major disaster to overall fish production in a country like Bangladesh.
The shad resources are also very important to the achievement of food security in a country like Bangladesh which therefore should establish joint management measures with India, and perhaps with Myanmar also, for the sustainable development of the fisheries of this most important fish resource in Bangladesh. A similar situation exists between Pakistan and India on the Arabian Sea side. There may not be a significant increase from this sub-sector, but regulation is essential for sustained exploitation of this important resource.
Inland fisheries production in the subregion increased significantly from 1,250,558 mt in 1984 to 1,216,000 mt in 1994, a decline from the 2,729,327 mt in 1993. According to the 1993 figures, India produced 67.3 percent of the total, Bangladesh 26.8 percent, Pakistan 4.5 percent, Nepal and Sri Lanka 0.6 percent each, and Bhutan had negligible production of about 350 mt while Maldives has no inland water bodies (Table 7). Almost all the countries showed an increase, with India's contribution having the largest impact. However, in Sri Lanka, production declined from 30,575 mt to 18,000 mt, because of the government's new policy to stop supporting inland fisheries development for cultural reasons. The cyprinids, mainly the carps such as the common carp, rohu, mrigal, bighead, catla, grass carp, silver carp, trouts and climbing perch, were the main contributors in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, but in Sri Lanka the dominant species were tilapia (FAO Year Book, 1994).
Inland fisheries production has been exhibiting a slow rate of growth, due to heavy fishing pressure, environmental degradation and unbalanced utilization of the resources on land and in water. India is a major contributor to inland fish production, but its inland fishery catch rate is showing a decline. It is believed that any further increase in production has to come from reservoir fisheries.
Bangladesh's rate of increase of human population is greater than the increase in fish production and hence the per-caput consumption tends to decline. It has also contributed to overfishing and increase in competition for access to fish resources. Only proper management and application of sound technology to increase the yield can help to improve the exploitation potential. In almost all the countries except Maldives, greater yield from reservoirs could be obtained. An integrated fish farming system also should be encouraged in all the countries, for improved fish production from the freshwater bodies.
In Pakistan, the Water and Power Development Authority (WPDA) is in charge of fisheries development in major irrigation and hydroelectric power reservoirs on the Indus and other rivers. It is reported that production of fish can be increased through stocking of hatchery-raised seeds (rohu, silver carp, grass carp, catla, mrigal carp and common carp). About 23,000 mt of fish, valued at Rs.118 million, are being caught by 5,000 fisherfolk for their living, and 13,000 anglers as game fishermen. The yield is around 15.5 kg/ha but it is thought that this can be increased to 100 kg/ha. It is also reported that presently only about 35 percent of the 8.6 million ha of freshwater bodies (rivers, reservoirs, lakes and flood-plains) are being utilized. There are 5,000 fish farms covering an area of 1,500 ha, and six hatcheries and 22 nurseries provide 16 million fingerlings. While the growth rate of total fish production is expected to decrease from 3.4 to 2.7 percent, the inland fish production rate is expected to increase from 2.4 to 3.0 percent (IPFC, 1994). Similarly, in India, Sugunan (1995) has reported that the small, medium and large reservoirs can be made to realize a moderate increase in their average yields from 49.9, 12.3, and 11.4 kg/ha, to 100, 75 and 50 kg/ha, respectively. This will take their present yield from 93,650 mt to 245,134 mt. Stocking fast-growing extraneous species should be considered. However, stocking programmes in the region have not followed any scientific basis. Consequently, the effect of stocking has been different in different reservoirs. Characteristics of populations of endemic species should be studied and their feeding habits understood before any attempt is made to identify the species to be introduced and the quantities of fingerlings to be stocked.
Ul-Ameen (1987) has quoted figures of 888 mt of freshwater mussels collected and about 13,850 (160 kg.) pink pearls produced annually in Bangladesh. The meat of the mussels is utilized as duck-feed and the shell used in making buttons, toys and decorative items. He has also reported that in 1978 and 1979, molluscs worth Tk 677,000 and Tk 360,000, respectively, were exported.
Around 2,000 mt of frog-legs, valued at Tk 2 million, were being exported annually from Bangladesh, until the late 1980s. In 1984, Bangladesh exported 2,511 mt of frog-legs and India 2,834 mt. This industry was discouraged in both countries and in 1993, the record shows that Bangladesh had exported only 700 mt of frog-legs. There are no records of exports of any products from crocodiles, turtles or aquatic mammals.
The Indian Ocean region has many major rivers, with a total mean discharge of 78,000 m3/second and drainage area of over 920,000 km2, besides numerous small rivers and riverlets. In addition, there are numerous reservoirs, perennial and seasonal irrigation tanks, ponds, rainwater stagnating in depressions in the low-lying areas (villus in Sri Lanka and bheels in Bangladesh and India). Bangladesh has over 103 million ha of rivers, canals and estuaries, 114,161 ha of bheels and baors, 166,943 ha of ponds and tanks, 5,488 ha of ox-bows, 68,800 ha of reservoirs and 2.8 million ha of flood plains inundated seasonally (Ataur Rahman, 1989). Ancient irrigation tanks are being renovated and new reservoirs added, with the development of irrigation and hydroelectric power by diverting rivers, as recently was done in Sri Lanka.
Potential. This is one sub-sector that could provide considerable expansion and employment opportunities and also provide cheap fish for the poor people of this subregion. Application of the benefits of research work carried out over the last 5 or 10 years should result in better yields from natural water bodies through appropriate stocking programmes, poly-culture and integrated farming systems. It is anticipated that the yield from the subregion might be increased by 10-20 percent over the next 10 years. In Sri Lanka, where production declined due to policy changes, it can recover by at least 100 percent. Better management schemes, including the replacement of leasing and auctioning systems with straightforward licensing to fisherfolk, may have significant benefits in terms of exploitation and income to fisherfolk, particularly in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
Capital investments and operational costs in the freshwater sector are relatively small compared to small-scale fisheries in the marine sector. With the large extent of freshwater bodies available, the potential for development and expansion of capture fisheries, culture fisheries and culture-based capture fisheries in freshwater is greater than from any other sub-sector in this subregion.
Common commercially valuable seaweeds are Caulerpa spp. Hypnea spp., Gracilaria spp., Euchema spp., Codium spp., Sargassum spp., Gelidiella spp., Enteromorpha spp.
Countries like India and Sri Lanka have a long history of harvesting and exporting seaweed (Gracilaria vericosa) and in the recent past, have attempted to cultivate this species. Harvesting consisted largely of collecting seaweed that gets detached or broken and washed ashore during monsoon seasons. As the material was not processed into clean products, the market for such products declined in favour of cultivated products, such as those from the Philippines. This affected the export of naturally grown seaweed from most developing countries on the Indian Ocean. Later, cultivation of seaweeds was commenced in India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. However, various constraints such as finding suitable markets, obtaining a good export price, grazing of cultured weed by rabbitfish, have retarded progress in cultivation.
Potential. Perhaps local demand for seaweed will increase and economically justify active collection and utilization of the otherwise underutilized natural resource of seaweeds for domestic markets. Cultivation may have to be considered after identifying export markets and improving the quality of the product to compete with established exporters.
There are numerous species of freshwater plants of economic value, but no identifiable records are available on the commercial collection of plants from freshwater. Collection of such plants takes place in most of the countries for consumption, ornamental, religious, medicinal, cattle feed and manuring purposes. A supporting industry for collecting/importing/cultivating freshwater plants is developing along with the freshwater ornamental fish industry. With increasing popularity and domestic and export demand for ornamental fish in the region and elsewhere, demand for the supply of ornamental plants for aquaria may have also been increasing in recent years.
Utilization of this resource in the subregion appears to have declined in the last decade or two, one reason being the increased production and competition in export from other countries like the Philippines. This industry can be revived and production increased by making a serious effort to identify markets for export. Secondly, the domestic consumption of species like gracilaria as a food item and for industrial purposes can be increased by suitable and economical processing and marketing. Culture techniques also have been developed for gracilaria but again, successful application will depend on establishing markets. There is under-utilization of other kinds of water-plants and sea weeds as vegetable food items from the aquatic environment. Utilization may be increased by starting extension and popularization programmes.
The ratio of marine production to that from freshwater among the countries in the subregion ranged from 0.0 (Bhutan & Nepal) to 100.0 (Maldives). Bangladesh (0.4), India (1.0), Pakistan (3.5) and Sri Lanka (23.4) fall in between. India, with the highest production, has almost equal production from the marine and freshwater sub-sectors. Even landlocked States can consider entry into marine fisheries and exercise their right to claim a share, through the Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, of the Total Allowance Catch. It may be useful for them to examine the practicability and feasibility of such ventures. Sri Lanka's situation is abnormal in that inland fisheries declined due to the government's policy decision not to encourage fisheries in that sub-sector. Since the position has changed recently, inland production should be able to reach the previous maximum level of 30,000 mt or even more.
Aquaculture production has increased from about 0.64 million mt in 1984 to 1.9 million mt in 1994 (Table 7). Freshwater aquaculture production increased at a high growth rate, while brackish water and mariculture production achieved an even higher growth rate because of the high demand and high export value for the species.
India's contribution was close to 50 percent of the Indian Ocean total. India and Bangladesh alone produced more than 100,000 mt, each. Contribution by freshwater aquaculture was more than 90 percent of the total aquaculture production in India and Bangladesh, while it was around 35 percent in Indonesia and Thailand and only 11. 9 percent in Malaysia. Cyprinids and Cichlids are the predominant freshwater species groups cultured.
Freshwater aquaculture of various traditional forms has been practiced for many decades in countries like India that have very large land-mass. Some of these cheap, backyard techniques have also helped to keep freshwater fish within the reach of poor people in China. The traditional system of trapping shrimps and finfish in intertidal waters and culturing them, practiced in countries like Bangladesh, results in the production of many species of penaeid shrimp and finfish. Other developing nations have taken smaller steps in this direction by breeding hardy varieties of fish (endemic and exotic) and periodically stocking natural and man-made water bodies, both seasonal and perennial, for the benefit of poor people living inland. Sewage-fed fish ponds in Calcutta are one outstanding example of a well-organized system of combining sewage disposal with fish culture in a large city.
Production of freshwater species by capture fisheries on natural stocks and the contribution by culture-based capture fisheries on stocked species have not been quantified to assess the economic benefits of the stocking programme.
Jhingran and Ahmad (1991) indicate that the average yield from a reservoir in India is around 14.5 kg/ha/yr, though a yield of 50-100 kg/ha/yr can be realised. Fish ponds stocked with carnivorous species and artificially fertilized are reported to yield 225-560 kg/ha/yr in the USA. German fish ponds yield 1,120-1,681 kg/ha/yr, while in the eastern, western and central regions of India, the yields were 2,582-2,927, 5,527-5,621, and 3,457-3,754 kg/ha/yr, respectively. Well-managed ponds should yield 6,000 kg/ha/yr, as against 10 kg/ha/yr in natural freshwater bodies.
Freshwater species cultured are: prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) and numerous species of the cyprinids and cichlids as food fish and ornamental fish. Exotic freshwater species such as grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), silver carp (Hypothalmichthys molitrix), freshwater siluroids (Siluroides spp.), snake heads (Channa spp.), giant gouramy (O. goramy), etc., have also become very popular in this subregion. Many of these species are also being stocked in natural water bodies for the development of culture-based capture fisheries. Species such as tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus, O. niloticus and Tilapia rendalli) have also been introduced into many water bodies in Sri Lanka.
Extensive or semi-intensive poly-culture systems through stocking of natural water bodies and intensive monoculture of freshwater species are reported to have exhibited a manyfold increase in production in most countries over the last couple of decades. Composite carp culture involving 3-6 species is popularly practiced in countries like India, with yields ranging from 400-10,000 kg/ha/yr (Sinha & Srivastava, 1991 & Jhingran & Ahmad, 1991).
Aquaculture integrated with agriculture and animal husbandry has been practiced traditionally in some countries. Paddy cultivation and shrimp culture in seasonal rotation is an old system, but popular use of fertilizers and pesticides for agriculture impedes aquaculture activities. A more modern approach to this system is in use in India. Integration of raising poultry, ducks, cattle, sheep or pigs and growing of vegetation such as mulberry, banana and other fruit trees on the fish pond embankment or adjacent to the ponds is also a favourably accepted system.
Growing freshwater plants as a system integrated with utilization of the nutrients in the waste water from fish culture ponds is also gaining popularity. There are more than 40 species of aquatic plants (Macrophytes) that are considered edible. Some of the popular ones are:
- Pistia stratioles
- Eleocharis dulcis
- Ipomea aquatica
- Wolffia arrhiza
water lily seeds
- Nymphaea stellata/lotus
Brackishwater culture and mariculture were relatively less significant in the subregion until the 1970s, but there was a significant increase in production from these between 1984 and 1993. This was because of the heavy demand for high-valued crustaceans, molluscs and finfish in foreign markets. In the recent past, there has been a decline in production due to serious environmental and disease problems, and countries like India and Sri Lanka are now in the process of getting out of both kinds of culture.
Traditional culture of fish and shrimps was practiced in tidal ponds and mud flats, as in Bangladesh and India. Modern extensive, semi-intensive and intensive culture systems have been popular in the subregion since the 1980s. The choice from among these systems depended on pond facilities, stocking densities, food supply, water management and supervision. Feeding and maintenance of the quality of water are two factors that became constraints in many ways. The high cost of good quality feed and excessive use of feed because of high density of cultured animals in intensive culture resulted in reduction of water quality in ponds, increase in costs and reduction in production and revenue. Insufficient arrangement for the continuous supply of good quality water required in aquaculture and improper systems of discharging waste water from ponds contributed to the pollution of sources supplying water to ponds and local people, and caused damage to the environment. Organic/chemical pollution caused many kinds of diseases in cultured animals and people inhabiting the surrounding area and loss of income to the culturists. Generally, diseases are less common in semi-intensive and extensive culture practices, compared to intensive culture systems. Excessive tapping of ground water results in temporary or permanent damage to the water-table, and seepage of polluted waste water affects the quality of the ground-water used by the people. Environments damaged by such actions have recovered with the suspension of culture activities but become more vulnerable to the effects of future pollution.
Some of the noteworthy marine/brackishwater species being cultured or ready for culture in the subregion are: penaeid shrimp, freshwater prawn, mullet (Mugil cephalus and Liza spp.) and diadramous species such as sea bass (Lates calcarifer) and milkfish (Chanos chanos), pearl oysters (Pinctada spp. and others), sea cucumber and seaweeds (Gracilaria vericosa and others).
Potential. Freshwater aquaculture has the potential for significant expansion and providing cheap fish for domestic consumption in the subregion. Carps form the major category, followed by tilapias. There is scope for small-scale fisherfolk to be engaged in this activity.
Brackishwater culture and mariculture also have potential for expansion but not to the level of freshwater culture. More constraints have to be overcome and investments are greater. These two kinds of culture perhaps will cater mainly to the export market for many more years. There is less scope for small-scale fisherfolk in this activity.
Bycatch generally consists of non-targeted species or targeted species which are too small in size to fetch a good price. Bycatches of pelagic sharks on large-scale tuna longliners in the Indian Ocean are generally discarded at sea after the fins are removed. Some quantities of the shark meat of selected species are being kept if there is unutilized storage space on board, for specific usage such as the base material for making fish cake, etc. Small-scale tuna longliners and gillnetters, such as those of Sri Lanka, consider sharks as targeted species, but in countries such as Bangladesh and India sharks are considered a bycatch. Some of them export the dried fins to the Far East and the dried shark meat to countries like Sri Lanka. Others discard them at their landing sites. There is already a small export of dried shark to Sri Lanka from India, Maldives and Bangladesh, but this could be developed into something more beneficial to the exporting and importing countries, if the trade could be placed on a stronger footing within the South Asian countries. Further, a means of importing the unutilized/discarded sharks from the Gulf, and any other region, to countries that have a good demand for shark meat, may also be beneficial in reducing the wastage of resources and providing additional food supplies - a system of exchanging certain varieties of fish for others, within and between regions.
In this subregion, the trammelnet fishery for shrimp generally has a very small component of large-sized fish as bycatch which are being marketed without any difficulty. On the other hand, the shrimp-trawl fishery has the largest proportion of bycatch which consists of medium and small-sized fish and other organisms. In such a fishery the bycatch is sometimes retained and sold at a very low price if the catch of target species is poor and the crew has spare time and space to sort and preserve the bycatch on board. However, the bycatch will be discarded if handling and preservation of the catch of target species requires the full-time attention of the crew and there is no time to handle the bycatch. Bycatch landed are not always in good condition and in some countries like India, the bycatch landed are generally converted into dry-fish. In many of the developing countries, poor people buy the bycatch for their consumption because they can afford only such low-priced fish. A large quantity of the landed bycatch is commonly used in the preparation of fish-meal for poultry and other livestock and also as fertilizer. Therefore, there are opportunities in this region for better utilization of bycatch that are now being discarded. Suppression of industrial trawling for small and scattered stocks of shrimp may reduce the capture of juveniles, help to improve the recruitment of many stocks of such fish and contribute to higher yield to appropriate fisheries targeting them. This will also prevent the high efficiency of bottom trawls from causing intensive exploitation of the numerous small stocks of all kinds in tropical waters. Alternative processing methods to extract the nutrient components of these fish are also an option that may be taken up seriously.
In India, traditional fisheries such as kattumaram and teppa with different sizes of small mesh gillnet, small quantities of various kinds of unmarketable fish and also fish damaged by crabs, are landed seasonally along the shores. Although the amount discarded by each unit is small, considering the number of such craft in the country, the total quantity being discarded in this manner is very large. A scheme to utilize these discards to create useful products at a cottage industry level has been recommended (Sivasubramaniam, 1991).
Estuarine set bagnet and pushnet fisheries generally do not classify their catches into target species and bycatch, even though their catches include most species and sizes that are considered bycatch in shrimp trawl fishery. These fishermen attempt to market almost everything they catch except trashfish. The pushnets, dragnets and set bagnets used in the collection of shrimp seeds for culture catch an enormous proportion of numerous species of larvae and very small juveniles as bycatch. It has been estimated that during shrimp larval collection for culture purposes, billions of other larvae and juveniles are caught and discarded on the banks of the estuaries in Bangladesh and India. Appropriate management steps should result in considerable improvement to the yields from these populations.
In Pakistan, the people are generally not fish-eaters. It is reported that small fish caught are mostly unutilized. Considering that the trawlers are contributing to 30,000 mt of shrimp catches and that the shrimp resources are being subjected to over-fishing, the ratio of shrimp to finfish by catch may be not less than 1:3 or 4.
Trashfish consists of species not suitable for consumption because of the taste and odour in their muscle, the appearance of the fish and poison or allergy-causing chemicals in the tissues. These include fish such as puffers, tripod fish, jellyfish and scorpionfish. Even some species which are marketable in one country are classified as trash in another, because of traditions, culture or taboos.
Discards include bycatch that are not marketed in any form and trash fish thrown overboard at sea or discarded ashore. No proper record of discarding is maintained in any country in the Indian Ocean, though some rough guesstimates are made whenever necessary. Discards at a global level may be around 27 million mt (estimates vary between 17.9-39.5 million mt), not including freshwater and marine molluscs. Based on observation, it may be said that not less than 200-300 thousand mt of fish are discarded annually in the South Asian subregion. The largest contributors are the fleet of 3-4 thousand trawlers operating in the subregion, mainly from India and Pakistan.
Based on information from some areas of the Indian Ocean, the discards of bycatch by shrimp trawlers is estimated to be about 12 kg for every kg of targeted catch. In the finfish trawl fishery and tuna longline fishery, the corresponding values are 1.72 kg and 1.13 kg, for every kg of targeted catch of those fisheries (Alverson, Freeberg, Murawski & Pope, 1994).
In Maldives, fish export is rather small in value but contributes 25 percent of the GDP. There is rapid expansion in the export of fish and fishery products from this region. Imports of such items by the countries in the subregion are small or negligible, except in the case of Sri Lanka, where fish imports have a major role in meeting the demand for fish. Export earnings may be no more than 2 percent of the GDP. Exports and imports of fish and fish products were 448,414 mt ($1.22 billion at an average price of $2,728/mt) and 42,028 mt ($39 million, at an average price of $935/mt), respectively. Both exports and imports are lower in quantity and average prices, compared to the ASEAN region. However, it may be noted that export items fetched a higher average price per mt than imported items. Sri Lanka receives almost 90 percent of the fish and fish products imported into the subregion, mainly to compensate for the shortfall in the domestic supply, and there has been an additional increase in fish import to compensate for the decline in production from the northern and eastern provinces, due to the ethnic problem. Among the exporters of fish and fish products, India is responsible for nearly 57 percent, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives for 20 percent, 17 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Sri Lanka exported approximately one percent of the total from the subregion. The major types of products imported were dried fish (74.6 percent) and canned fish (8.8 percent) and the major types of products exported were crustaceans (shrimp & crabs), molluscs (squid & cuttlefish) (45 percent), frozen fish (44 percent) and dried fish (9 percent). In terms of revenue, 77 percent was from the export of crustaceans and molluscs. Sri Lanka imported dried fish at the price of $867/mt, but the export price of dried fish from this subregion was $1,218/mt in 1993. India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan imported 5,983 mt of fish-meal at $773/mt but India and Maldives exported 3,854 mt of this item at $1,568/mt (FAO, 1984-1994).
Intra-regional trade among the SAARC countries has the opportunity of growing in the future. In the past, the main trade was the import of Maldives fish from the Maldives and dried small sardines and anchovies by Sri Lanka from India and Pakistan and also frozen fish from Pakistan. All these declined to almost zero by the late 1960s or early 1970s. During the last decade, with the opening up of the free market economy, Sri Lanka recommenced import of Maldives fish, dried reef fish and shark from Maldives and dried shark from India and Bangladesh. Sri Lanka also imported marine ornamental fish from Maldives. The export of chank from Sri Lanka to Bangladesh appears to have declined in recent years, but the fate of the flourishing export of this item from India to Bangladesh is not clear. Similarly, the extent of the trade between India and Nepal is not evident. It is also unrecorded and unofficial knowledge that there is an exchange of hilsa for shrimp seed between Bangladesh and West Bengal State of India, across the border.
Inter-regional trade in fish between South Asian and South-East Asian nations is also growing: tuna from Maldives to canneries in Thailand; ornamental fish from Sri Lanka and Maldives to Singapore; shrimp from any of the South Asian countries to Singapore and Malaysia; dried anchovy from Thailand to Sri Lanka; `icing glass' (dried gas bladder of croakers) from Bangladesh to Hong Kong SAR; beche de mer (dried sea-cucumber), from India and Sri Lanka to Singapore and Hong Kong SAR; mud-crab from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, are some of the trade known to exist. Export of shrimp seeds from hatcheries in ASEAN countries to shrimp culturists in SAARC countries and export of grouper larvae from SAARC countries to ASEAN countries also developed in the recent past. Besides these, high-value finfish and shellfish species are also exported by South Asian countries to Japan, USA and the EEC, and, particularly by India, to Middle-East countries and other areas where Indians are resident.
Intra-regional trade agreements and increased trading in fish and fish products would be in the interest of the economy and food security in the subregion.
Imports of fish and fish products by most of the South Asian countries are negligible, compared to their exports. Indians are predominantly vegetarians and there is no heavy demand for fish at present. The high price of imported fish and other economic factors may prevent an increase in the per-caput consumption of fish by the large populations of lower income groups in Bangladesh and Pakistan. It would be beneficial for South Asian countries to realize that exports by Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia include catches that come not only out of their EEZs but also large quantities imported from other countries, including those in South Asia. Consequently, Thailand, which has the highest revenue from exports of fish/fish products, also has the largest expenditure for importing fish/fish products. Its exports include a very large amount of tuna imported from other countries, including Maldives, for canning and export to USA and other countries. Singapore is not a major fishing nation. Hence it has to import most fish for domestic consumption, but like Thailand, it is also a trading nation that imports fish (both live and dead) from South Asia for export to more affluent nations. South Asian nations also may be able to organize a similar system as an intra-regional approach to collectively increase their supplies for export and strengthen their markets.
The seven categories of fish and fish products imported and exported are: fish (fresh/frozen/iced), fish (dried), crustaceans and molluscs (fresh/frozen/iced), fish (canned), crustaceans (canned), fish-oil and fish-meal. The relative percentages of the quantities and values involved in imports and exports by South Asian countries are summarized in Table 8b.
Export of crustaceans and molluscs. Export of crustaceans alone by South and South-East Asian countries on the Indian Ocean is estimated to be 680,000 mt valued at $128 million (average price of $5,900/mt).
Since the slump in the shrimp markets of distant nations in 1989, the thinking in South Asia has been to move towards reliance on exports to non-traditional importers in the region itself. This has been facilitated by the high economic development in Southeast Asia, increased disposable income of the growing middle class, abolition of import restriction by Taiwan Province of China and Korea, introduction of market-oriented economies in China and Vietnam, duty-free imports by Singapore, Hong Kong SAR and Malaysia, increased supply of shrimp due to expansion of shrimp culture, and higher per-caput consumption of seafood in these countries.
Dried fish preparation and consumption are common in Asian countries. In the South Asian subregion, preparation of dried fish evolved traditionally as a cheap way of preserving fish. Dried fish is prepared when large catches during the peak season cannot be handled and marketed in fresh form to the interior of the State for storage without spoiling. Consequently, very large quantities of the catches in these developing countries were converted into dried fish. With the introduction of modern preservation methods such as freezing and canning, the proportion of the catch converted into dried fish has declined. However, the tradition of including dried fish in regular meals continues and therefore production of dried fish also continues. Now, however, considerable attention is being paid to improvement of the quality of dried fish. Countries that have an excess of any fish species or have no domestic demand for those species find it easier to export it as dried fish to others who are willing to pay a good price. In South Asia, there are more countries exporting dried fish than importing it. The average price of imported products is cheaper than that of exported products, but the unit prices received or paid by the countries in the region are significantly different.
Live ornamental fish capture, culture and export/import records are extremely weak in the South Asian subregion, though it is a fast-growing industry in many of the countries and management problems already exist. Capture fisheries are for both marine and freshwater varieties but more for the freshwater species. Culture fisheries are also mainly for freshwater species, rather than for marine species. Some marine ornamental fish from Maldives are routed through Sri Lanka to other markets. The markets in the developed countries offer a very good price, but a fair amount of the fish from this subregion is routed through intermediate marketing nations like Singapore. When dealing through intermediate or middle-men markets, the producers do not always receive the benefit of the consumer markets. Again, considering the volume presently available, a collective approach to the production of a wide range of varieties, improved quality and export may be advantageous.
Fish-meal production in the region is insufficient to meet the demand. Yet some countries export higher-valued fish-meal and import cheaper fish-meal for their domestic use. Available information indicates that in 1993 local production was around 648,543 mt, exported quantity was 41,741 mt at $505/mt and imported quantity around one million mt, at $519/mt.
Production of fish-oils and fats was also recorded as very small in 1993. However, it is known that Maldives exports ambergris, which should fetch a high price. The local production is highly variable from year to year because of the uncertainty of dead marine mammals being washed ashore or found inshore.
FAO Statistical Year Book for 1993 records the production of 55 mt of corals by India only. There is more but it remains unrecorded. The relative proportions of the various categories of imports and exports and the average prices are presented in Table 8b.
It has been said repeatedly that the root cause of food insecurity is poverty. The people most vulnerable to food insecurity are those living in rural areas, including fishing communities. In South Asia, the majority of fisherfolk are in the small-scale fisheries sector and are the primary producers of fish by capture fisheries. South Asian countries differ widely in the size of human population and levels of development. India's huge population of 900.5 million makes the collective population of the region an extremely large 1.18 billion. A very significant percentage live close to or below subsistence level. The economies are vulnerable and in the coastal States of the subregion, fisheries is one of the main components of the economy, except in Bhutan and perhaps in Nepal also. They all have policies to expand fisheries and increase its role in improving their economy and their food security. Fisheries, then, definitely has a significant role to play in the establishment of food security in the subregion. To achieve food security at a national or regional level the countries in this subregion must strive towards a stronger and more stable economic condition, through political stability and responsible development and management of natural resources, especially food resources.
Fish consumption may be much higher in Lower Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs), even if it contributes about the same share or less to animal protein in the economically better off countries in Asia. In the South Asian group of LIFDCs, fish may contribute less animal protein in most countries, but in Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh it is very important (Table 9a).
Per-caput food supply for direct consumption in South Asia has been increasing slowly from 2,030 to 2,060 and 2,070 calories/caput/day, from 1960 to 1970 and 1980, respectively. The World Food Summit ( FAO,1996f) projected that by 2010, the supply will be around 2,520. These values are considered to be higher only than the Sub-Sahara subregion. All others have exceeded 3,000 calories, which is the boundary between low income and middle income categories. Some of the developed countries also have been reported to have only about 300 to 400 calories/caput/day higher than 3,000.
Over the last decade, agriculture has shown steady growth as a contributor to food security, and India's experience has been described as a success story. Capture fisheries of the world may not be entitled to similar recognition. However, the South Asian coastal States have established a good record by achieving an average growth rate of around five percent in their total fish production. Sri Lanka's negative results were attributed to the significant decline of about 40 percent in marine fish production from the north and east coasts affected by ethnic troubles, and by the 40 percent decline in production from inland fisheries due to a political decision that suspended State support to that sub-sector for a few years. Production from the latter sub-sector is slowly recovering and should be accelerated during the next few years, but the former and larger sub-sector will realize its full production capacity only when the entire coastal area of the country is once again actively contributing to fishing.
South Asia's reliance on vegetables for energy is very high compared to developed and developing countries in general (Table 9a). Developed countries have a higher energy demand from animal products than developing countries have. Southeast Asian countries consume more meat, fish and eggs than South Asians, but less milk. However, in recent years, there has been an increasing trend in the relative supply of animal protein in South Asia also (Table 9b).
The World Food Survey (FAO, 1996e) indicates that there were about 255 million or about 22 percent undernourished individuals in South Asia in 1990/92. Though the percentage of undernourished shows a decline from the 33 percent in 1969/71, the actual number of individuals has increased from the earlier 238 million. The average per-caput energy consumption by the undernourished in Southeast Asia was less than that of South Asia in 1969/71, but the former had overtaken the latter by 1979/81. Undernourished children under five years old in South Asia totalled around 156 million in 1990/92, and 30 percent of the population of under five years in developing countries are in South Asia. Over the last two decades, the population of undernourished has been increasing in all the South Asian countries (FAO 1996e).
Approximately 40 percent of total animal protein is contributed by fish in South Asian countries. It is around 80 percent in Bangladesh and perhaps more than 90 percent in the case of Maldives. Consumption of water is also an important item that is linked with food. In South Asia, 50-80 percent of the rural and 80-85 percent of the urban population are supposed to have access to safe water. Average per-caput consumption of fish in this subregion is 9.9 kg/yr, which is about 40 percent less than the world average of 16 kg/yr. As already mentioned, high dependency on fish as a food item and as a source of protein is also evident. Poor quality of legumes, due to poor environmental quality, has also been reported for the subregion (Table 9c).
Maldives depends on fish not only as its most important natural resource but also as its main source of animal protein and as one of its main foreign exchange earners, besides tourism. In the case of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, fish is significant for its high contribution to protein supply for the people and also as a foreign exchange earner from fish export. India is the largest fish producer in the Indian Ocean, but due to cultural reasons, the majority of Indians are vegetarians; most fish eaters are among the coastal and urban populations. It is also the largest exporter in this region, exporting a very large quantity of shrimp, other shellfish and finfish. Pakistan, although a coastal State, depends less on fish for animal protein. The two land-locked States of Bhutan and Nepal are forced to rely less on fisheries but have been attempting to improve their inland capture and culture fisheries to provide fish to their people.
The fishery resources available to the countries in the subregion contribute to the protein content of their food, to obtaining foreign exchange earnings through export and to providing employment opportunities to a section of the population, thus enhancing the economies of the countries. On the other hand, at the individual or household level, opportunity is created for some to have fish as food and also to earn some money to buy other provisions or to barter excess fish for other things. For other subsistence level fishermen, fish serves as the major source of food for survival. Fisherfolk households in South Asia generally attempt to engage in additional income-generating activities to supplement their income from fishing. Common activities are: cultivating other crops in the backyard, working as labourers in agriculture and on construction sites and salterns, shrimp seed collecting and livestock rearing.
Fisheries also contributes to the economic and social betterment of the countries in question. Generally, the contribution is around 1-2 percent of the GDP, except perhaps in the case of Maldives where fisheries and tourism are the two most important sectors for the economy of that country. More than four million people are engaged in the primary economic activity, capture or culture fisheries, either on a full-time or a part-time basis, in both small-scale and commercial capture fisheries and in fish farming. The estimated number of persons employed in fisheries-related industries such as processing, distribution and trade amounts to some 20 million. Employment opportunity for such a large number, in the subregion which has a very high unemployment rate, is an indication of the contribution that fisheries makes to the countries, particularly in Maldives. A land-locked country like Nepal also has a fair number of its population dependent on fisheries for employment and livelihood. The policy of the States is also to achieve even higher employment in the fisheries sector.
Besides its contribution to employment and small income to the fisherfolk, fisheries also provides benefits to the economic wealth of the regional countries. Trade in fisheries commodities has developed rapidly during the past two decades, and they have become one of the most important commodities in international trade. Among the SAARC countries, Sri Lanka is the only nation that has been importing a large quantity of dried fish - more than exports. However, the imported items are of lower value than the exported items. Fisheries is an important foreign exchange earner through export for almost all the SAARC countries, though its contribution to the GDP may not be very significant in most countries, except Maldives. Traditional and modern small-scale fisherfolk in the region, such as the small-scale tuna producers in Maldives and Sri Lanka and those engaged in the capture of exportable quality shrimp and finfish, have been steadily and significantly improving their income from fishing in recent years. Those engaged in the export-oriented industrial fisheries and the export trade fall into a much higher income class.
With the potential resources available for increasing fish production in the subregion, there is room to increase employment opportunities in the fisheries sector. However, the development choices that are available will need labour-intensive systems for capture and culture fisheries in freshwater bodies which now provide low income to fisherfolk. The major marine resource potentials in the offshore/oceanic ranges may tend to encourage capital-intensive technological systems that will increase efficiency and produce more of the species that are not utilized at present and may therefore require specialized catching, handling, processing and marketing. There will be manpower requirements and employment opportunities, but they may be less than those in the former sub-sectors. It is also expected that with improved infrastructure facilities, improved handling and processing and avoidance of loss and wastage in the catches from the coastal fisheries, there will be more employment opportunities in shore-based fishery-related activities. Some of these opportunities may have to be reserved for those who may be edged out of coastal fisheries by more effective management of the coastal resources and fisheries.
The fish is an animal that is most readily acceptable for consumption by the people of South Asia. It is consumed in all the States in this region. Traditionally, access to fish was available through marine fisheries for those living in the coastal areas and through inland fisheries for those living close to inland water bodies. With improvement of roadways, transport, and electric power facilities, and understanding of nutritional requirements, the distribution, storage and consumption of fish has increased. In India, although the majority are vegetarian, an increasing number of people are consuming fish, at least in the urban areas.
The present level of production and imports, non-food usage and exports and the supply available for human consumption are found in Table 8c. Average per-caput consumption of fish in South and Southeast Asian countries is 8.7 kg, which is consistently lower than the world average of 13.4 kg. The value is a little higher in Southeast Asia than in South Asia, but the value has a very wide range in South Asia, with an average of 126 kg/caput in Maldives and a low of 0.2 and 0.8 kg/caput in Bhutan and Nepal.
Consumption of small and large cured-fish in the form of salt-dried and pickled fish is characteristic of the subregion. However, traditionally caught varieties continue to be in high demand. With time, other varieties are also being included in the marketable species list. Tuna and large shark in India and Bangladesh, varieties other than tuna and tuna-like species among the Maldivians and small varieties and tuna in Pakistan have still to gain strong demand in those countries. Because of the habit of eating selected fish and shellfish, many forms of invertebrates and seaweeds available in the sea are not consumed. In this South Asians differ significantly from people of ASEAN and other Far Eastern nations which consume practically every form of edible aquatic animals and plants. In fact, most items that have been traditionally exported from this subregion, such as sea-weed, beche de mer, sharkfin, etc., are those that are relished in other regions but not in this region. With increasing demand and price of fish for domestic and export markets, demand for low-valued varieties like the small pelagics and demersal species, and freshwater species like tilapia, is increasing rapidly in Sri Lanka. There are species in special demand in many of the countries, like hilsa in Bangladesh and the West Bengal State of India, barramundi and giant sea-perch in northern India and Pakistan and Spanish mackerel in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka and Maldives are two nations that have a high demand for tuna, and the former is the only country in the region with very high demand for shark meat.
The demand for fish is growing continuously in the subregion because the population is growing. Per-caput consumption of fish is increasing and there is also a demand to export fish to get higher value and to earn foreign exchange. However, that demand is not being met because of insufficient production due to limited fishery resources, depletion of resources through over-exploitation and/or insufficient production of certain preferred species. The situation in Nepal and Bhutan is difficult to quantify but there is definite interest in increasing fish production and demand is not being met there at present, due to various economic and technical constraints.
Kee-Chai & Donna (1996), analyzing the situation in 1992, indicated that in spite of its low per-caput consumption compared to the world average, the South Asian subregion was a fish deficit region and was unable to meet the needs of the population. Pakistan was considered to be the only country with a fish surplus. Countries in the subregion export 2-52 percent of their productions. Sri Lanka had the lowest percentage exported (2 percent) and Maldives had the highest (52 percent), with Pakistan (16 percent), Bangladesh (7 percent), and India (5.6 percent), in between. It appears that the quantities produced and the percentages exported in 1993/94 have shown significant increase, compared to the preceding year. There were small imports of edible fish by Bangladesh and India and relatively more fish-meal and fish-oil were imported by India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Sri Lanka imported mainly dried fish and canned fish which was about 30 percent of its production in wet weight.
Table 10 presents the approximate scenario for the year 2010, in terms of projected human population, fish production, exports, imports and shortfalls. The population growth rates show slight changes for the better in recent years, except in Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan, and future growth has been based on these values as the average. However, it is anticipated that the population growth rates are likely to decrease at different rates in these countries. In fact, Maldives is facing a general labour shortage, particularly in the fisheries sector. Their desire to increase the population is understandable in some ways. The production levels required to maintain the present level of per-caput consumption, even into 2010, have been estimated for the estimated population size in that period. However, it has to be borne in mind that with per-caput consumption very poor in the landlocked countries, it is also poor in Pakistan, even though a lot of fish is going waste in that country. The probable export and import levels in 2010 have been estimated by increasing the 1993 levels in proportion to the estimated increase in production required to meet increased consumption. This has been done to enable their relative percentages to the total production to be kept constant until 2010. Overall, the annual total production will have to increase from around 6.5 million, to 7.8 million mt, or a 20 percent increase, to maintain the contribution that fish makes to the food supply and the same percentage of export. In at least five of these countries, the consumption rate is far below the average for the world, and the estimated production required to attain 13 kg/caput by 2010 in the five countries other than Maldives and Sri Lanka, will be in the region of 20 million mt! This value may be unattainable without a miracle. It is anticipated that the per-caput consumption rate in Maldives is very high and may decline to a more reasonable value if the rate of increase in fish production does not keep up with the population growth rate. The demand in 2010 thus may be realized at a lower level of production than that in Table 10. This does not mean that Maldives cannot attain that level of production but the fact is it relies almost entirely on tuna stocks which are shared with too many countries in the Indian Ocean region and outside it. Efficient functioning of the Tuna Commission, allocation of catches and sustaining the exploitation of tuna resources will determine the degree of increase in production. India's fish consumption rate has been diluted by the large population value but in realistic value may be double, or even greater, if it is based only on the non-vegetarian population in India. However, the percentage of non-vegetarians is steadily increasing in urban areas, and a significant increase in demand and price of fish is already evident.
Loss from discards of bycatch of trawlers and gillnetters, damaged catches due to predation and unmarketable species in traditional fisheries, spoilage and wastage in shrimp and finfish seed collection processes and non-consumable small fish in Pakistan, is estimated to be around 400-500 thousand mt. Offshore/oceanic ranges may contribute a minimum of another 150-200 thousand mt of large pelagics to the coastal States. Large demersals on the slopes of the subregion and offshore cephalopods can contribute at least 50-70,000 mt and deepsea lobster and shrimps will safely provide 20,000 mt. Underutilized pelagic resources of the shelf may provide not less than 30-50,000 mt and the unutilized deepsea fish can yield over 300-500,000 mt of fish from the EEZs, which may have to be made marketable or converted into value-added products. Freshwater bodies can be stocked and made to yield an additional 1 or 2 kg/ha and this should bring in not less than 100,000 mt from the subregion. In Sri Lanka, freshwater fisheries should achieve another 15,000 mt to reach its previous level of production, and marine production will gain another 50-60,000 mt when the problems of the north and east are sorted out. Freshwater aquaculture, utilizing all available water bodies and introducing poly-culture and integrated fish-farming, should bring in an additional 250-300,000 mt, including Nepal and Bhutan. Brackishwater culture and mariculture should become well established in the region in another couple of years, and production of shrimp, prawn and finfish should increase considerably to supplement exports. These figures add up to 1,415,000 mt-1,865,000 mt., arbitrary but modest estimates and therefore, the targeted catch for 2010 may not be an unattainable figure. It is also likely that South Asia will be in a position to increase production from brackishwater culture and mariculture and export more than the anticipated amount of higher-valued fish items and earn more foreign exchange. They also have some chance of reducing import of fish-meal and organizing means of producing their own fish-meal, using offal or non-consumable portions of fish and meat, residual components of vegetable oil production, vegetable wastes, domestic food wastes, etc. Even if this does not work out, the discarded bycatch, trash and damaged fish may easily be used for this purpose and the money saved by the suspension of fish-meal import may be used to import some other kinds of edible fish or food items.
Considering the general political and economic conditions prevailing in this subregion, it would be far too optimistic to assume that these countries can achieve the optimum utilization of all available discards, wastage, etc., and the exploitable potentials to increase production by the year 2000, i.e., within the next 3 years, as anticipated by Kee-Chai and Donna (1996). It is more likely that the developments may be closer to the goal by between 2005 and 2010. Even to attain that target and sustain it, more effort than in the past must go into it, because it involves not only developmental processes but also the more difficult ones of implementing and enforcing various management measures that could not be carried out in the past. It calls for serious reorganization, unification, collaboration and strengthening of the various fisheries and fishery-related units, creation of new units, engaging in specific development and management-oriented research, planning of development programmes in their entirety (not piece-meal) and establishing/revising legislation, for it to be amenable to new approaches to rational development of aquaculture, protection of environments, integrated coastal management and community-based management/co-management.
Meeting demand and overcoming problems in supplying fish depend on successful changes in the traditionally established fish-eating habits and the attitude towards specific species-wise demand, creating demand for new species and new fish products for which resources may be available. The low degree of preference for freshwater species should be changed to equal that for marine species, to dilute the prevailing greater demand for marine varieties. This would also involve popularization of recipes for freshwater species, to be on a par with the countries in ASEAN and the Far East.
In this subregion, the public sector has been primarily responsible for the development of agriculture and fishing industries. The predominance of agriculture as the sector with the largest population participation is the backbone of the economy of the countries, except in Maldives. The political consciousness, support, assistance, etc., have always been there. In fact, assistance in the form of seeds, fertilizers, drought relief, subsidies and loans provided to the agricultural sector has been so enormous that the contribution to the fisheries sector appears to be negligible. Further, because agriculture and fisheries have been under the umbrella of the same ministry in all these countries, the approach to fisheries development, management and extension service has been biased by the practices in the agriculture sector. This philosophy has been suggested as the reason for the failings in the fisheries sector. Even today, fisheries is linked with agriculture or livestock, except in Maldives and Sri Lanka, where the Ministry for Fisheries has, in the last decade, annexed agriculture and other aquatic resources. In India, the situation is more complex because offshore/oceanic fisheries is under the Ministry of Food Processing, while coastal fisheries remains with the Ministry of Agriculture. In Bangladesh, too, fisheries statistics are under the Central Statistics Department and the information available is insufficient for research or management purposes. There, decisions on licensing of foreign and industrial fishing vessels rest with the Ministry of Industries and not with the Department of Fisheries or the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.
It must be accepted that whatever infrastructure facilities exist, such as harbours/anchorages, fish-markets, roads, housing and research, in addition to flood relief, subsidies, loan schemes, insurance and pension schemes, have been provided by most of the coastal nations. However, with the present economic standings of these countries and with such collective responsibilities, fisheries has not been able to get the attention it deserves. The major failure has been in non-implementation of management regulations and in reduction of the over-exploitation of the coastal resources. Sufficient far-sighted thinking has not gone into long-term fisheries development goals. For example, where regulatory measures were not enforced, in order to help poor traditional fishermen to carry on whatever fishery they liked, and with subsidies and credit facilities, the government concerned has, in fact, contributed to the destruction of the resources that are necessary for fishers' survival.
With recent developments in high-value shellfish and finfish exports and the potential for foreign exchange earning by the industry, the public sector has shown significant improvement in their interest and attention to fisheries development. At the same time, private-sector entrepreneurship also entered the fisheries sector. These developments happened too fast for public sector institutions to gear themselves to deal with the legal aspects, technical guidance and management mechanisms for the protection of aquatic and coastal environments, resources, quality control, etc. This resulted in severe damage to environment and financial loss to the industry and the aquaculture sub-sector of the private sector. Similarly, delay or failure of policy decisions and implementation of offshore/oceanic fisheries among the coastal States contributed to the expansion of the fishing effort by distant nations. Unfortunately, the public-sector decision to licence foreign vessels to operate from bases in some of the countries in this subregion was made when the private sectors in those countries had just begun to operate in the same fishery.
The public sector is awakening to these realities, and their thinking is improving fast. Strong, far-sighted and integrated policy decisions are essential for this subregion, in addition to streamlining the government organizations for efficient and integrated functioning of all components of this sector. With more and more private sector participation, the future role of the public sector will be more in terms of far-sighted policy decisions, effective management systems and collecting rents for proper maintenance of services rendered by the State to the industry.
The private sector is becoming more actively involved in the development of offshore/oceanic fisheries, in brackishwater aquaculture, mariculture and in processing and marketing of fish and fish products, including exports and imports. Their enthusiasm is curtailed to some extent by administrative machinery and regulatory mechanisms which were not geared to the needs of the time. This led to some loss to the industry and slowed the development process. Recent experiences, both positive and negative, have provided lessons to the private sector and the governments to amend or introduce legislation and facilities and tax concessions to encourage and accelerate private sector investments, particularly those with the potential for export or foreign exchange earning.
A government's regulation of private sector investments, while facilitating them, should be stringent enough to prevent wrong-doings such as damaging the environment, disregard of foreign exchange regulations and, most importantly, not maintaining the expected quality standards and being discredited by the importing nations. All the coastal nations in this subregion, except Maldives, have been listed for exporting bad-quality fish products to the United States.
The private sector will have to be the main group to contribute to the development of capital-intensive sub-sectors in fisheries. With the need for better shore facilities for multiday fishing boats and for maintaining the quality of exported fish items, infrastructure facilities have to be improved and increased. Since the States cannot afford to provide funds for more of these facilities or for their continued maintenance, the private sector owners of offshore fishing craft must pay rental for the use of existing harbours and other facilities provided by the State.
Inter-country cooperation in South Asia has a major role for the successful development and management of fisheries for food security. The most essential role is in bilateral and multi-lateral management of straddling stocks and highly migratory stocks that are numerous in this subregion. Secondly, with differences in eating habits, in preference for different varieties of fish and in the relative abundance of the fish available, there are many opportunities for trading by exchange of fish that one country prefers and another does not. Some fish may also be bartered in exchange for other kinds of food items. Improved sharing of technical knowledge in agriculture and fisheries that is already available will improve the overall output, not only from fisheries but also from agriculture, in all the member countries. Perhaps an organized collective-trading plan for the export of fish to countries outside the subregion would help to reduce competition within the subregion and strengthen bargaining capacity with larger quantities for each shipment, a more steady supply of more varieties of fish and fish products, e.g. seaweeds, sharkfin, beche de mer, tuna and ornamental fish. The present inability to do this is a weakness that some of the countries in this subregion are suffering from.
Liberalization of trade and deregulations among the SAARC members is an actively discussed subject, and if it materializes, it will facilitate trade within the region and with other subregions, including those dealing with fish and other food items.
Among others who are involved with fisheries and fisherfolk are the international and bilateral donors and executing agencies. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and German Technical Cooperation Programme (GTZ) are some of the major agencies funding and executing developmental projects in the agriculture and fisheries sectors in the subregion. There has been considerable input in the last four decades or so and they still continue their assistance.
In recent years, it appears that there are a few issues which may be of relevance to food security in the fisheries sector. One is that there are too many agencies involved in fisheries developmental activities in each country at the same time, and they are increasingly directing their inputs through other institutions and organizations, besides the relevant departments of the ministry concerned, such as universities and other institutions including non-governmental organizations and consultancy groups. There is a need to prepare collectively-planned lists of projects, which should be shared among all the agencies interested in funding and/or executing them, in the various countries. This is necessary to avoid misplaced priorities in selecting projects, duplication of projects, and to reduce waste of time, money and effort by limited skilled personnel available in most countries. The other important issue is the failure to evaluate follow-up activities of the projects, to identify whether the results of the projects have been incorporated into the system. Repetition of projects on the same or a similar subject has not been meaningful because the reason for the failure the first time was not evaluated. There is less time for such trials, as far as the future of fishing industry in this subregion is concerned, and both the governments and the agencies have to pay attention to this. The political atmosphere in the countries also will have to become more sympathetic to such an outlook.
Fisheries cooperatives are playing a useful role in the fisheries sector, particularly for the small-scale sector in coastal fisheries. Besides all that they are doing at present, it is also possible that they could be involved in the community-based management of fisheries. The NGOs in this region have been very active in carrying out extension work to educate the fisherfolk about various fisheries matters and by speaking on their behalf. They can educate fisherfolk about the environment and perform the function of environmental protectionists. They continue to enlighten fisherwomen on their responsibility for their family's welfare, health, savings and even on finding additional income-generating activities.
Adult education centres in the coastal areas provide an opportunity to improve the literacy level among fisherfolk in this subregion. They also help to provide some understanding of fisheries, fishing methods and resources.
The objectives for developing fisheries generally listed by the countries of this subregion are :
It is evident that these objectives have a tendency to be counterproductive to one another. Maximum production and increased employment may not be acceptable for sustainable development. Increasing export of quality fish would mean that costs will go up, and it will not be in line with increased production of cheap fish required for domestic consumption. Increased employment could also mean less income for individual fisherman and this will not be favourable to improving their standard of living. Implementation of these may mean pushing and pulling developmental activities in different directions which may not favour any one of the objectives or may make development unmanageable. In this context, objectives with strong and positive indications of good return on investment, such as the development of capture and culture fisheries for export, will succeed. Thus, very highly capital-intensive industrial fleet operation and culture activities which employ relatively few fisherfolk have been established in the midst of predominantly low-cost and labour-intensive small scale fisheries which employ only fisherfolk. This is the common scenario in almost all the coastal states in the subregion.
Providing subsidies to poor fishermen has contributed to the survival of some inefficient or destructive traditional fisheries that do not provide a reasonable income and are not favourable to the sustenance of the resources. Because of the subsidies provided to certain categories of fishermen, their fishery also gets protection under management regulations. These protective management regulations generally have not been favourable to more efficient fishing systems that compete with the inefficient subsidized fishery. Subsidy schemes also encourage an increase in fishing effort beyond the level of sustainability, as in the case of the Sri Lanka coastal fisheries. Subsidies given to industrial trawl fishery for shrimp created competitive and interactive fishing between traditional shrimp fisheries, and between modern small-scale fisheries for shrimp and industrial shrimping vessels. The traditional fishermen found themselves in a disadvantageous position. When this happened in India, the subsidy was shifted from the industrial fishery to the small-scale fisheries and this resulted in a significant increase in the fishing effort of the latter sub-sector, which has turned out to be too intensive for coastal resources. In the sub region, this policy has permitted traditional, modern small-scale and industrial fisheries to grow simultaneously, increasing conflicts within and among these categories of fisheries.
The general tendency for the governments of developing coastal States is to allow their coastal fisheries to grow beyond the maximum economic or sustainable levels until it stabilizes at the equilibrium point. This is to provide an opportunity for maximum employment. Subsistence fisheries and subsidies help to increase the fishery even beyond the equilibrium point. Management decisions to correct this exist, but action has not been evident.
Management measures affecting traditional fisherfolk will certainly require identification of alternative income-generating activities and financial assistance to encourage them to quit that kind of fishery. It would be preferable to consider modern small-scale types of fisheries as an alternative to any fishery being discouraged, because large-scale fisheries are likely to create new conflicts with small-scale fisheries. With the prevailing heterogeneity in income among small-scale fisherfolk, socio-political issues do not favour traditional management approaches.
Offshore fisheries development planning is relatively weak among countries of the subregion, for a number of reasons:
These reasons have distracted the attention of fisheries planners from timely planning and preparation for offshore fisheries development and/or to determine the pros and cons of entering into joint ventures with foreign collaboration. This has affected countries in the subregion in which the fishermen traditionally have been engaged in fishing for oceanic tuna and shark that extend their distribution into the outer fringes of the coastal waters. These fishermen, with their knowledge of pole and line (live-bait fishery), large-mesh drift-gillnetting, trolling and/or longlining for tuna and shark at the edge of the continental shelf, have been desperately trying to shift into the offshore range over the last two decades or more. Sri Lanka is an outstanding example of a country with such fishermen. However, they find themselves competing with foreign tuna fishing vessels licensed to operate from bases in Sri Lanka, the justification and terms and conditions of which are discouraging to the local fishermen and do not seem to be favourable to local offshore fisheries development.
The demands from some developed countries for protection of some aquatic animals, such as dolphins, small whales and turtles, are issues in the development of tuna fisheries in developing countries. Restrictions have been imposed on the import of tuna from countries that are not using "dolphin friendly" fishing gear. The very long gillnet has been declared a "wall of death" for many marine animals and birds, and there is a UN moratorium on its length if used in international waters. Gillnet is the predominant gear used in almost all types of small-scale fisheries by most countries in this subregion, as it does not require a specialized fishing craft. There is pressure to restrict this gear even within the EEZs. That would involve almost a complete change in the overall structure of the fishing gear, characteristics of fishing craft and fishing techniques, which would require an enormous amount of funds. Based on some arbitrary figure produced without proper scientific study, Sri Lanka was internationally named as a nation killing about 60,000 dolphins annually and the country was harassed by various groups of environmentalists, locally and internationally. A special FAO/BOBP project set up to study this problem made a reliable estimate of the number of dolphins and small whales caught of around 5,000 (Dayaratne & Joseph, 1992). However, the protesters still continue to reject this figure. Recently, there has been an objection to the import of fish and shellfish from countries in this subregion, such as India, unless they use a turtle excluder device (TED) in their trawlnets to reduce the killing of turtles. There are reports based on trials in tropical waters that targeted fish also escape through the TED. These restrictions are of serious consequence at this juncture, when the trend is that the per-caput consumption of fish will decrease significantly in this subregion, even if all the fish caught at present are landed and used.
is also well known that marine mammals and pelagic sharks are competitors for the food fish that poor people in these coastal States are also attempting to catch, and their per-caput consumption per day may be very much higher than that of the people in the subregion. These apex-predators are causing the loss of catches, through predation of a very significant percentage of the tuna and other large pelagic fish species caught with drift gillnet and tuna longline. In fact, the loss is greater in the Equatorial region, including the EEZs of Sri Lanka and Maldives, than in other latitudes of the Indian Ocean (Sivasubramaniam,1964). The loss through predation on longline catches is greater than that on gillnet catches. At the same time, countries are being discouraged from using gillnetting and encouraged to use longline. Complete protection of dolphins and small whales is likely to increase the population of marine mammals and their consumption of fish in the sea.
The potential for increased production from this sub-sector is minimal or nil in the countries of this subregion because the intensity of exploitation has been high from the beginning of fisheries. Some of the methods introduced then are turning out to be very destructive to resources but because they are some of the most traditional systems, there are many difficulties in banning or significantly reducing exploitation by such gear. Due to larval collection for culture, reduction of a number of very small stocks of various penaeid shrimps and larvae and juveniles of valuable finfish such as groupers and basses being exported from South Asian countries for aquaculture in countries with exhausted stocks, are a considerable risk to the wild stocks.
This subregion has a large extent of very rich and highly productive mangrove areas, but these are being destroyed rapidly for various purposes, including expansion for human inhabitation, aquaculture, fire-wood, etc.
Desalination programmes and direct and indirect discharge of industrial and domestic wastes, fertilizers and pesticides through rivers opening into lagoons, anchoring of motorized craft, construction of causeways and bridges across lagoons and channels, all obstruct the free flow of water in and out of the lagoon and are a few of the common sources of destruction to this environment.
Clearly spelt-out policy decisions and regulatory measures are required to retard these destructive processes.
Dynamiting and use of poison such as sodium cyanide to collect fish in the vicinity of coral reefs is another method which is not only causing the death and destruction of the targeted species but also all other organisms in the area, including coral reefs. Dynamiting for domestic consumption is an old tradition, but the use of poison for the export of live snappers, groupers, breams, etc., is a new and flourishing business. In South Asia, Maldives appears to have entered this business already. An extremely cautious approach to the development of this kind of export item is essential because sodium cyanide poisoning has already become a very serious problem.
Ornamental fish and shell collection, operation of trammel and other types of nets for lobsters and finfish on the reefs, also cause damage to reefs and the ecosystem.
Policy decisions are necessary to control such destructive practices on fishery resources that are becoming scarce.
Pollution, misuse and insufficient management for efficient sharing of this aquatic environment by various types of users is increasing in this subregion. Besides these, the ecology for the maintenance of biological diversity is also threatened. Relatively small compared to the marine environment, it is very sensitive and vulnerable to changes and impacts. Damage to freshwater habitats has been more severe than to the marine environment in this region. Unregulated use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides in agriculture, of water for various activities, loss of groundwater resources and consequent intrusion of saline water, are some of the very serious problems.
Due to desire for rapid increase in production from this sub-sector in some countries and insufficient or uncertain policy considerations in some others, freshwater fisheries development has not followed a systematic and well-planned approach in this subregion. Though considerable research and trials have been conducted and very beneficial techniques have been developed, their applications have not been sufficient to achieve a yield in keeping with expectations. This includes improvements to the environment, increasing the productivity of water bodies, improving fishing technology, production, marketing and utilization and, most importantly, catch statistics.
In countries like Sri Lanka, fishermen in the freshwater sub-sector generally have a subsistence fishery, are poorer than their marine counterparts and their income is more seasonal in nature. They engage in all kinds of labour for survival during the off season. Some of the poorest among fisherfolk are engaged in freshwater fisheries in the flood plains (bheel/villus) of countries like Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
In Bangladesh, and perhaps in some parts of India also, there are traditional systems of leasing, auctioning and other forms of water-tenuring of freshwater bodies to middle-men or money-lenders, who in turn provide access to the water bodies and the fish resources to a large number of fishermen for a rental fee. Having too many fishermen in a specified area provides a very poor income to each fisherman. Their poverty drives them to borrow money from lenders to whom they eventually give their user rights because they are unable to repay the loans. Management regulations are ineffective in preventing poor fishermen from thus losing their only means of survival.
In view of the fact that freshwater fisheries has the potential for providing significant increase in production, and at relatively less cost per unit increase than in the case of marine fisheries, the price of freshwater fish may not be as high as the marine varieties. Development of freshwater fisheries should get the priority, funds and other inputs it deserves. The benefits of the research already done have not been realized and the costs incurred have not yet been recovered.
Anxious to capitalize on the opportunity to make good returns on investments in aquaculture culture, particularly shrimp culture, entrepreneurs made investments without sufficient planning, investigation and preparation. Consequently, a number of issues are retarding progress in shrimp and other forms of brackishwater culture and mariculture in the South Asian subregion. It is also unfortunate that the experiences of other subregions that started such aquaculture programmes much earlier than South Asia were overlooked by many. Consequently, problems relating to environmental conditions, pollution, disposal of effluents, shortage of clean water supply, availability of sufficient and healthy seeds for culture and diseases in cultured organisms suddenly became very critical issues. This resulted in heavy/mass mortality in culture ponds, poor export demand for unhealthy shrimp and loss of millions of dollars to the industry and the countries. Following are some of the short-comings:
Today's aquaculture practices demand specialized requirements in aquaculture: engineering, pond engineering, genetic engineering, nutrition, treatment of diseases, brood-stock and hatchery management, etc.
In the freshwater sub-sector, considerable outstanding research work has been carried out in both India and Bangladesh in this subregion, besides the progress made by institutions in the ASEAN region. Cloning, selective breeding, induced breeding, improvements in culture biology for seasonal water bodies, species combinations for yields of 1,850 to 2,125 kg/ha from polyculture, integrated fish farming with agriculture, freshwater prawn hatchery with brine in tubs, etc., have been reported during the last few years. Full application of these results should contribute to the continuation of the significant increase in the freshwater fish culture programme in India and Bangladesh and through TCDC or other means of transferring these technologies to other States in the Subregion.
Overcoming damage to culture activities in the coastal areas of States which are prone to frequent floods and cyclones, as experienced by Bangladesh and the east coast of India, is an issue that requires attention.
Infrastructure and other facilities for the efficient operation and maintenance of the fishing fleet and ensuring the quality of the catches deserve considerable improvement and expansion in most of the countries in the subregion. Traditional craft are generally scattered along the coast-line, without proper anchorage or harbours. Recently, motorized boats have begun to increase in numbers, but they do not have access to safe anchorage in every developing country. Lack of anchorage/harbours results in lack of facilities for supplying ice for preservation of catch on-board and for handling and preservation/processing of the catches when unloaded. Such facilities are hardly available for traditional fleets and available for only about 40-60 percent of their motorized fishing fleet, depending on the State. Lack of such facilities demands extensive transportation facilities for the immediate removal of the catches from the landing places. Indian shrimp trawlers on the east coast have to sail for days from the fishing port in Andhra Pradesh to the fishing ground off the coast of West Bengal State because there are no suitable facilities in Andhra Pradesh, for landing and processing the shrimp catch for export.
Fishing-boat building and routine maintenance and repair facilities are of various standards. There are numerous traditional craft construction yards but few for the construction of modern motorized craft. Even these may not always have qualified naval architects and marine engineers to design economical and sea-worthy craft in line with the traditions of familiarity and acceptability of the small-scale fisherfolk and to supervise construction and maintenance.
Special emphasis has to be placed on development of post-harvest technology to improve the handling, processing and quality of fish and fish products in most South Asian countries, to reduce loss due to spoilage and discard, to increase the value of the products and to improve earnings from exports. The importing countries complain constantly about the quality of fish and fish products exported from developing countries. Even when these products are accepted, the unit price received for shrimp and other products is low for some of the South Asian countries. US sea-food detention from South and Southeast Asian countries, in January-March 1996 covered practically every product exported. Reasons included salmonella, decomposition, insects, rodent and bird wastes, parasites, labeling error, sulphites, harmful colouring material, histamine, clostridium, short weight, mercury and cadmium. Countries listed included India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Implementation of inspection according to the HACCP regulations of the US Food and Drug Administration becomes mandatory with effect from December 1997. US importers will be required to obtain fish products only from countries with an active memorandum of understanding or similar agreement with the FDA documenting the equivalency of the country's inspection system with the FDA system, that ensures products offered for import were processed according to HACCP regulations. The quality of fish available in the domestic markets of developing countries is also not of satisfactory health standards in this subregion.
There is pressure on sea-food exporters in South Asia to respond to a rapidly changing market situation influenced by quality, demand and other concerns. Recession in some countries like Japan hit Indian exports, which dropped in 1995/96. Dependency on few markets has been found to be a risk. The need to establish new and additional markets for each product and ensuring fairly large shipments on a steady basis has become evident.
Limitations of arable land and irrigation facilities, deforestation and increase in human populations place greater dependency and pressure on the marine and freshwater environments to make more contribution to food supply. Balancing land and freshwater usage for agriculture and for fisheries is becoming a complex exercise, particularly with the need to protect and maintain the quality of the aquatic environment, to be able to cope with demands from both sectors. Inputs favouring one may be counterproductive to the other. An example of such a situation concerns one of the largest and most productive seawater lagoons in Sri Lanka - Batticaloa Lagoon. Excess irrigation water from the Gal-Oya scheme is diverted into this lagoon, and rice cultivators would also like a major part of the lagoon to be converted into freshwater. Fishermen's protests have not had any effect. The southern part of the lagoon has changed; water lilies are growing and shrimp and other valuable fish species have disappeared from that part of the lagoon. Agricultural activities have affected Pakistan's freshwater capture and culture fisheries: loss of water resources through seepage in water canals and in fields, soil erosion, salinity intrusions, pollution from fertilizers and pesticides and obstruction to movement of fish populations in the rivers by the construction of barrages for agriculture and dams for hydro-electric power generation. Perhaps all the countries in this subregion have the last type of problem, except Maldives.
The most significant factor that controls the steady supply of fish in this subregion is the monsoonal weather which influences sea conditions as well as flood and drought on land. The size and characteristics of fishing craft, which reduce their sea-worthiness in rough conditions in the seas around the subregion, prevent them from operating during many months of the NEM and SWM. In the past, most traditional fishing families virtually starved at those times, while some managed to save something for the `rainy days'. In later years, fishermen's societies, associations, groups and even the church helped to organize relief funds for the fisherfolk during the lean seasons, but the supply of fish to the public was almost nil. With the introduction of modern small-scale and industrial fishing fleets, this situation improved by degrees, depending on the level of modernization of the fishing fleet in each country. The degree of modernization also has proportionately increased the diversity of the exploited fish resources and the sea areas accessible to these craft, and has reduced seasonality in the supply of fish. With this, the peak seasons in the supply of some species changed from the inter-monsoons to monsoons, while others became available throughout the year. Better stability in the supply of fish requires the modernization of traditional fleets, which form the larger component in countries like India and Bangladesh.
Similarly, in the inland fisheries, seasonal drought and flood affect fish production and the livelihood of poor fishermen, and the most affected country is Bangladesh. One of the factors contributing to this problem in Bangladesh is the Farraka barrage on the Indian side of the river Ganges. Very recently, India and Bangladesh appear to have come to an understanding, and India has agreed to release water on a continuous basis. This should reduce flooding during the monsoon and drying up of the river bed during the inter-monsoon periods and also enhance fish production in Bangladesh to some degree. Flooding and drought affect not only capture fisheries but also culture fisheries. The loss of production from the former is much greater in value because it includes loss of brackishwater cultured animals such as shrimp from the ponds that get washed away by the cyclones/floods, as in Bangladesh and the east coast of India. The loss from the latter is also great because the spawners concentrated in the deep ditches during drought are easily fished out, as reported by Bangladesh. Stocking programmes in the inland freshwater bodies are also affected by the reduction in the surface area of the water during drought. Management of freshwater bodies is generally lacking.
Unlike in the case of grains and cereals, it is difficult to stock fish without appropriate facilities. Presently fish production is generally consumed in fresh form. A smaller component is converted into salt-dried, smoked, smoked and dried or pickled fish. This is more because of the storage problem, consumer preference and to facilitate distribution into the interior areas that are without electricity, rather than for preservation as buffer stock. Some specific fish stocks in the subregion have provided unusually large catches in particular seasons in some years, and most of these perished due to lack of storage and distribution and not due to lack of demand, but such situations are becoming relatively rare.
The present organizational arrangement for fish production, for domestic consumption as food, fish-meal, baitfish, and for export as high-valued luxury-food items, ornamental fish, game fish, etc., does provide for buffer-stocks of fish, except the large stocks of dried fish imported by the Cooperative Wholesale Establishment and the private sector in Sri Lanka.
First and foremost, "political will" must prevail if major changes in fisheries policy matters, changes in fisheries development priorities and implementation of drastic but essential management measures are to be achieved. Secondly, placing all fisheries development and management matters under one ministry will help coordination, regulation and execution of all aspects of the industry to be carried out efficiently and expeditiously.
General objectives for developing the fishing industry mentioned earlier may be kept, if each of them is related to specific fisheries, fishery resources, areas or situations, to reduce conflict and counterproductive tendencies. This is possible, but very difficult to implement, unless appropriate management mechanisms exist or can be introduced. Enforcement also will not be very effective.
In light of the threatening food security situation, the following primary objectives are being discussed at conferences for inclusion under fisheries policy and are valid for the countries in South Asia:
The following should form the basic skeleton for any future policy framework for the sustainable development and management of fisheries and for a meaningful food security programme in any subregion.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea gives the responsibility of managing the resources in the EEZ to the coastal States. For developing countries, this responsibility is a serious one, as they have not been concerned about it until recently. Article 63 considers shared and straddling stocks together.
The International Conference on Responsible Fishing, held in Cancun, Mexico, 1992, requested the FAO to prepare an international code of conduct to address their concern. The declaration of the Cancun conference was an important contribution to UNCED (1992). The code of conduct sets out principles and international standards of behaviour for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. The code recognizes the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural importance of fishers and all concerned with the fisheries sector. It takes into account biological characteristics of the resources and the environment and the interests of consumers and other users. States and all those involved in fisheries are encouraged to apply the code and give effect to it (FAO, 1995).
Establishment of the EEZ and expansion of marine fisheries of developing countries have increased the kinds and numbers of fisheries conflicts and issues connected to the exploitation of stocks of highly migratory species and stocks of numerous species straddling across EEZs of coastal States with common EEZ boundaries and contiguous EEZs.
The UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was convened subsequent to the Cancun Conference on Responsible Fishing. Six sessions were held between 1993 and 1995 and an Agreement, dated September 1995, is available for implementation of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.
The Fisheries Acts of most countries in the subregion have evolved from their very long-standing Fisheries Ordinances of the colonial era over a period of one hundred years or more. The evolution has mainly been in the form of amendments to the Act made from time to time to incorporate new aspects that were the result of the fisheries development process. There have been too many drastic changes in the fisheries sector; the accumulation of amendments, therefore, does not seem to give sufficient clarity, coverage and flexibility to the Act to serve satisfactorily present and future demands in fisheries management. The major areas of difficulty will be in the incorporation of a co-management or community-based management approach, as well as in the introduction and implementation of an Integrated Coastal Zone/Resources Management Programme. These require careful framing of the legal reforms to make suitable provisions in the Fisheries Act and to frame fisheries management regulations that are practicable, sound in law and effective in enforcement. Therefore, it may be better if the Fisheries Act is drafted afresh and independently of the framework of the existing Act (Sivasubramaniam, 1997). Earlier acts and regulations based on past experiences in the subregion may not mean very much, because the government administrative system has undergone radical changes from the colonial system. No management measures of any great significance to fisheries have been successfully implemented since the colonial era. Even the basic step of registering and licensing of fishermen and fishing units/craft after the colonial era is still to be implemented to obtain a realistic estimate of the number of fishermen and fishing craft in the respective countries, except perhaps in Maldives. Maldives has a very small population and one major fishery, and it is the main responsibility of each island-chief and atoll-chief to collect information on every fishing operation every day - a total enumeration system.
Coastal. To reduce conflicts among fisherfolk and competitive and interactive marine fisheries, including finfish and shrimp trawling, purse seine/ring net fishery for small pelagics and offshore/oceanic tuna and shark fisheries, an attempt should be made to keep the fishing industry primarily within the structure of small-scale fisheries, as is the present situation in Sri Lanka. Further, the existing traditional fisheries should be replaced by equivalent and modernized small scale fisheries, as is being done in Maldives, and not by adding a modern fleet to the already existing traditional fleet, as in India and Bangladesh and partially in Sri Lanka.
The shortage of labour in Maldives requires capital intensive systems or a third generation dhoni with devices to reduce labour requirements and crew only to operate fishing devices and other machinery.
Subsidies should be restricted to unexpected situations that contribute to difficulties in maintaining viable operation of a fishery in a particular area or areas, or to encourage the entry into an uncertain fishery of an unutilized resource.
Since industrial shrimp trawling in tropical waters is too efficient for the small stocks of shrimps and numerous finfish and other shellfish species taken as bycatch, it has been responsible for the sharp decline in shrimp and finfish resources in many coastal States. Small-scale shrimp trawling and/or trammelnetting as an alternative to shrimp trawling, as in Sri Lanka, may be considered. Trammelnet fishery in South Asia catches primarily white shrimp (P. indicus) and some banana shrimp (P. merguiensis), with very small amounts of other penaeid shrimps. Modified versions of this gear with different mesh sizes, operated in a wider range of depth, may prove suitable for other penaeid species as well. With trammelnetting, bycatch will be small and of marketable size and quality. Bangladesh mentioned such a consideration in their policy paper prepared in 1993.
Substantial lowering of the cost of production could be obtained with small-scale fisheries, improved efficiency of fishing methods, reducing the importation of fishing vessels from developed countries, increased utilization of bycatch and discards by creating value-added products from them and by introducing a wide range of management measures covering practically all aspects of marine fisheries.
For the development and management of offshore/oceanic fisheries, the ministry concerned with these fisheries needs to have very firm policies, development plans and appropriate regulations for local and foreign fishing vessels. Some of the islands in the southwest of the Indian Ocean set up this programme over a decade ago, because of the limitation to the development and expansion of offshore fisheries with only a local fleet; a policy decision was therefore taken to encourage foreign collaboration. Many others have fisheries acts which touch on the conditions relevant to offshore fisheries in a general way. But they are not comprehensive enough to ensure that the terms and conditions are fair and favourable to the fishers and the governments of the coastal States, and that foreign collaborations or joint ventures are not detrimental to the resources, local fisheries and owners of the resources in their EEZs. Joint ventures established on the basis of such weak terms and conditions have led to many problems: uncontrolled expansion in the number of joint ventures; issue of licenses without limitations to the quantity of fish to be taken from specified offshore stocks by local and foreign fleets; conflicts between local and foreign fleets; fees/taxes not being levied on any established system; uncertainty about the technical status of the catch made by a foreign fleet (recorded as landings of the coastal state or foreign partners, etc.); and failure to declare information to the coastal state government on the catches made, effort applied and areas fished by foreign vessels.
In view of the pressure to discontinue gillnetting, there is a need to provide a steady supply of bait-fish for increased hook and line fishery in the coastal, offshore and oceanic fisheries. This would require establishment of a bait fishery for various species suitable for different target species. The need for hook and line fishery in inland fisheries also may be considered here.
The list of species protected by law has grown longer during the last two or three decades. However, both the law and enforcement continue to be weak in developing countries and, consequently, there are numerous threats of banning import of marine products from countries that are not "friendly" to animals such as dolphins, dugong and turtles. The responsibility for preparing the acts on protected aquatic species has been with the departments concerned with wildlife, forestry and/or fisheries in most countries, but coordination between them has been insufficient, the listings based on weak justifications and the acts are not comprehensive enough to ensure punishment of those who are guilty. The Fauna and Flora Protection Acts have to be updated and amended with well-defined conditions and stringent punishment to overcome all the existing limitations from the point of view of fisheries development and management.
This policy measure is listed separately because it involves government departments like wildlife, fisheries, forestry, coast conservation, irrigation, railway, highway, etc., and in the countries of this subregion these may be placed under different ministries. Though there are legal enactments covering such responsibilities of these departments and their ministries, experience shows that the combined implementation of management regulations tends to run into administrative bottle-necks. Policy decisions are required that would facilitate combined effort and successful implementation of these important aquatic ecosystems, for example:
Mariculture programmes for marine shrimp, freshwater prawns, marine and freshwater finfish, crabs, edible oysters, seaweed, aquatic plants, ornamental fish, giant clams, sea cucumber and pearl-oysters, are becoming very popular in many developing countries. Penaeid shrimp culture is the most popular activity, and the private sector must be provided guidance and encouragement to expand and include other varieties mentioned above, for both export and domestic markets.
Following the success of aquaculture in some countries in the world, many developing countries have planned for increased aquaculture production without learning enough about the techniques, conducting trials under conditions prevailing in their countries, establishing economic feasibility and demonstrating appropriate techniques to the fisherfolk. A heavy burden of success is being placed on such hurried approaches. Viability should be demonstrated before recommendations are made for investment in such ventures and before extension to fish-farmers.
The rate of return on investment in agricultural research has been reported to be 65 percent for rice in India and 58 percent for wheat in Pakistan. Though quantified estimates are not available, the return on the investment in freshwater fisheries research may be quite significant, considering the increase in production from capture fisheries achieved by India and Bangladesh in the last decade. If the results of all the research done are applied, there is strong reason to believe that the rate of return on investment will be even more. In freshwater fish culture activities, too, similar or better returns are indicated. Both input and output in other countries in the subregion have been relatively poor but the results from India and Bangladesh are quite easily adaptable to the needs of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan through TCDC or other means.
The situation in the marine sub-sector does not indicate a parallel result in the subregion. Management-oriented research using a prioritized programme has to be stepped up under the "Essential Food Security Situation", and the Fisheries Act must be made stronger and more effective for implementation of the management measures. It is unfortunate that the need for streamlining the research institutions in the subregion, appropriate training of scientific staff and guidance by competent scientists continues to be re-emphasized but not heeded (Sivasubramaniam, 1993; 1996).
A determined effort has to be made by the governments in most countries of the subregion to prepare a prioritized fisheries development and management-oriented research programme at the national level and strengthen the capability of fisheries research institutions, universities and their staff to coordinate execution at the national level and to provide appropriate direction, guidance and suitable facilities (Sivasubramaniam, 1996).
Research into utilization of (a) unexploited deep sea finfish resources; (b) bycatch in shrimp-trawl fishery; (c) unmarketable and damaged fish discarded by small-scale fisheries, for direct human consumption, for converting into value added products and/or fish and live-stock feed, should receive the highest priority. Success in this area would make the biggest contribution to maintain the per-caput consumption level until 2010.
Research into environmental stresses, fish diseases, production of disease-resistant and fast-growing strains of fish is of importance to the successful development of aquaculture - a major hope for ensuring food security in this subregion.
Improvements to existing infrastructure facilities will improve the efficient operational management of the fishing fleet, fish processing and preservation and preparation of value-added products of quality. These are essential support services for the efficient management of marine fisheries in these countries.
Additional infrastructure and anchorage facilities will help to reduce the scattered distribution of very large numbers of traditional and modern fishing units. Poor handling, collection, transportation and marketing of fish, due to scattered landings, contribute to reduction in quality of the catch. They also reduce the opportunity of getting the best value for the catch and a better price to the fishermen. In Maldives, further increase in production demands increase in infrastructure facilities. Difficulties in providing sufficient infrastructure facilities to cater to the needs of fishers and fishing fleets, due to the financial burden on each State government to establish and maintain such facilities, may be considerably reduced by introducing a system of collecting rent for the usage of the infrastructures and facilities. The rent would be based on the type of fishing unit, its average production capacity and cost and earnings analysis.
Increase in cold-storage facilities along the coastline and along the mid-line of the inland area will minimize transportation and distribution time and cost from the coastal and inland waters and will reduce spoilage and wastage. Further, such an arrangement of storage facilities may also be used for other perishable food items such as meat, fruits and vegetables.
Lack of rigid quality control standards for handling and cleaning of fish, storage of fish on board, fish processing plants, preservatives used and fish export licenses, are contributing to poor quality of fish and lower prices for products exported from this subregion. The quality control standards in the ISO 9000 series (based in Geneva), published in 1987, aim at providing international acknowledgment of quality efforts. Countries must insist that fish producing, marketing, processing and exporting individuals and organizations adopt these standards and abide by them.
Lack of proper quarantine for checking import and export of live and dead fish and reducing/preventing the problems of pathogenic organisms in fish and fish products.
Lack of fish diseases control/treatment and sufficient number of trained personnel to maintain quality of environment and products, particularly in aquaculture, to improve price and demand for exportable fish and fish products.
Many States need to develop infrastructure facilities which can maintain expected standards of quality for fish and processed fish products, with minimum spoilage due to bacterial/viral infections, insect/rodent infestations, etc., sufficient to meet the requirements of the quantities of the product in appropriate geographical locations.
Improvements in the quality of transport for fish, both for domestic consumption and for high-valued export markets. Similarly, specialized systems such as sedation by lowering the body-temperature, anaesthetizing by bubbling carbon dioxide, etc., to preserve live fish exported for consumption and aquarium and depuration for cleaning of live oysters, cockles and mussels have to be popularized to achieve the required quality standards for such products.
Direct utilization of fish reduces wastage and cost, and is suitable for poor people. Processing and converting fish into value-added fish products may be suitable for export markets. Producing surimi, utilizing palatable species like threadfin breams and small pelagics, as in India, may not be the best way to utilize the yield without loss. In terms of ensuring food security, developing and marketing these fish locally or exporting them to other countries in the subregion may be more beneficial than converting them into products with a significant loss of yield.
Discarding bycatch fish damaged by predators, fish-offal and other wastes in fish processing, etc., should receive the attention of fisheries planners and developers, to identify ways and means of utilizing them as food for humans, or at least as fish and animal feed. The latter may help to reduce the import of fish-meal to the region for savings which can be utilized to import food fish. Alternatively, there is the possibility of selling such categories of fish in forms acceptable to other countries in the region such as Nepal and Bhutan that may require fish-meal because they do not have any discards that could be utilized for such purposes. In this way, the differences between estimated fish-catch, landed-catch and fish-utilized will be reduced, and the last category will increase considerably without additional fishing effort.
In-depth analysis, far-sighted policy decisions and timely planning are required today to sort out such major national issues. Controlling nature is not possible, but mechanisms to reduce the risks from weather and sea conditions may be possible through improvements to sea-worthiness of fishing units, safety of fishermen at sea, etc., particularly in the large traditional sub-sector. The increase in costs and the consequent reduction in economic returns become a constraint. Can the countries of this subregion bear the costs or should the State let fisherfolk risk their lives and let fish supply be unsteady? Though the policy measures for this issue may rest with the respective countries which would tend to be in favour of introducing mechanisms, their economic condition may not permit that.
The basic idea of maintaining a buffer stock may be encouraged, initially, to establish a buffer-stock of baitfish collected during seasons of abundance and low price to supply hook and line fisheries, particularly for the tuna longline fishery which has to grow in Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan and is likely to start in Maldives and Bangladesh in the future. In Maldives, when the next generation of pole and line boats is introduced, it is expected that they may not be able to spend time collecting live-bait. Therefore, a live-bait fishery and stocking-pens for them may have to be established to provide sufficient live-bait for multiday voyages. This would then be an encouragement to maintaining a buffer stock of food fish - unusually large productions from a glut-season in the rainy season when fish-drying is difficult; highly seasonal fishery for varieties with low demand, e.g., Coramandel flyingfish for which production is curtailed by fishermen; and oil sardine which cannot be preserved by drying and hence is used as manure; non-preferred and cheap fish bartered with other countries in the subregion, to be marketed during periods when national fish production is low and fish price soars.
This subject has been mentioned in section 6.3. This is an area in which facilities may be available for liberalization of trade, and tariffs and deregulation under the existing regional body, SAARC. Discussions along such lines are ongoing among some countries, and perhaps fisheries is one area in which there are numerous possibilities and benefits to all the members. Examples of possible cooperation are:
The governments should endeavour to achieve these benefits, though subregional and inter-regional cooperation.
Section 6.4 dealt with the assistance provided by international and national funding and executing agencies that have made contributions and continue to assist the countries in the subregion with aid and technical support to increase food production and supply. Their assistance should be continued, but better coordination and collaboration by identifying fisheries projects from a national or subregional priority list, as already mentioned, may yield greater benefit and reduce losses by avoiding duplication of effort and taking up projects that give priority to food security issues.
It has been an advantage that the Indo-Pacific Tuna Programme (IPTP), the fore-runner of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Bay of Bengal Programme (BOBP) of the FAO are based in two of the States in this subregion. The former will be closed down at the end of this year, when the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission Secretariat in the Seychelles is ready. The fate of the BOBP is uncertain. The governments in the subregion, through SAARC, should endeavour to establish similar bodies to facilitate and strengthen activities mentioned under subregional cooperation, as well as for easy access to a centralized subregional technical information and support services unit during this critical period for food security.
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** A composite Index of Life Expectancy, Education and Income, given equal weight.
SOURCE: Statistics - Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 1996.
Source: Sixth SAARC Summit; Colombo; 1991. Special Issue.
** Mining and manufacture combined
Source: Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 1996.
Source: Statistics; Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 1996.
Source: Central Bank Statistics, Sri Lanka (1996).
Source: Ashfaque & Annice, 1994.
Source: World Food Programme, 1995
Sources: FAO Year Book on Fish Production 1984-1994; Hotta, 1996.
Source: FAO Year Book on Fisheries Commodities (1993)
Q = Quantity (t) and V = Value ($)
Source: FAO Year Book on Fish Commodities (1993).
Source: Based on FAO Fish Commodities Statistics, 1993 and Hotta, 1996.
e: FAO, 1995b+c.
Source: FAO, 1996e.
Source: FAO, 1996e.
Sources: FAO 1996e and Hotta, 1996.