Re: The Role of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition - E-consultation to set the track of the study

Habib ur Rehman Narejo Livestock & Fisheries Department, Government of Sindh, Pakistan, ...
09.04.2013

Sindh have premier position in Pakistan due to its immense fisheries resources, spread over 352 kms of coastal belt, 100% un-tapped Brackish water resources, wide marine waters, 3000 kms long River Indus and 1210 public water bodies.

These water bodies are dependent on Indus River which is major source of water provides for irrigation purposes through inter connected canal system which have many distributaries etc.

Up to 1999 Indus River was major breeding ground for 200 fish species including 20 commercial fish species which was the prime livelihood source for the fishers of Sindh province. After 1999 drought conditions in the country due to less precipitation and construction of many canals & head over on the Indus River, severely affected the water flow in the Indus delta, shrinking its size and diminishing the breeding grounds of fish species and affecting the eco-system of the water bodies.

Non-influx of fresh water in to the downstream Indus River the sea water intruded in to the sea associated districts like Thatta & Badin.

The coastal area of Sindh province is home to around 900,000 souls, at least three quarters of which are traditionally dependent upon fishing. With the salinization of coastal lands due to increasing sea intrusion, which has claimed more than 1.2 million acres, the population relying upon the traditional agriculture has also shifted its profession to fishing. The ever-increasing fishing activity combined with unsustainable fishing practices has resulted in devastation of the natural fisheries resources that are at the brink of collapse.

The heavy fishing pressure has caused decline in the bigger fish populations thus reducing the natural recruitment of fish on one hand and the reduced catches have forced the poverty ridden fishermen on the other to resort to the use of fine meshed nets, onboard or fixed in the creeks, which catch the juvenile fish of larger species and small edible fishes as well as endangered, associated or dependent species. There is no any consideration for target or non-target species. The major portion of the catches are sold as trash fish which return just pennies to the fishermen. At the moment, these diminishing fisheries resources are not enough to support a large coastal population any more.

Moreover, the poverty-hit communities are reduced to rely upon mangroves for firewood, fodder and for their livelihood needs, thus are cause of heavy logging and habitat destruction in mangrove areas, negatively affecting the growth & new recruitment of fish & shellfish. This situation just not putting adverse impact on the marine ecosystem & biodiversity but also putting more constraints on the coastal livelihoods as well and eventually leading to a point of virtually no return.

Besides above the inland underground water reserves over a large area of the country are saline and in Sindh province 78% of the ground water is saline because the area of fresh groundwater is confined only to a narrow strip along the River Indus. Further, the saline land in the irrigation command area exceeds 11.1 million acres across Pakistan and about 56% of the total irrigated land in Sindh province is affected with salinity and the number of people directly affected by saline, sodic and/or waterlogged soils in Pakistan was estimated to be about 16 million in 1998 which is expected to be doubled by the year 2020. There are many inland saline lakes also in the province. Additionally the surface water supplies in the Sindh province are not enough to meet the actual crop water requirements therefore the shortage in inland areas of the province has aggravated the productivity of the agricultural lands and the agriculturists are facing great economic losses, especially the small farmer is under crisis.

Under the above circumstance the prospects for artisanal fisheries growth and traditional agriculture in the area have diminished and the opportunity for rearing of the freshwater fish species is also no more available due to shortage of freshwater therefore the potential for “aquaculture of marine fish and shellfish in the inland coastal areas and inland saline lakes” remains the only option available for farming, to substitute the diminishing fishery and traditional agriculture, in order to sustain the coastal populations.

In the past, the area people used to rely on multiple sources of income depending upon the household resource ownership. While fishing formed a major part of their livelihoods, crop farming was also a key component as each family had access to some land, which they cultivated on a subsistence basis. The first diversion of livelihoods from crop and livestock farming towards the fishing sector coincided with the decrease in the fresh water flows in the downstream Indus. These changes forced the agricultural communities to shift their livelihoods to fisheries. Livestock ownership was an additional strategy for supplementing household consumption needs and as a store of value. Wood cutting enabled households to meet their fuel needs as well as supplement incomes for the poorer households. The decrease in water availability and increase in salinity was a source of pressure on all the diverse livelihoods. The choice that was once available to households gradually diminished and increasingly households became dependent upon one or two sources of income. Fishing, the single most important source of income for many families has become highly unreliable with much lower returns than were possible a decade or so ago.

Currently the main source of livelihood is fishing (90%) with agriculture and livestock at 8%. It is assessed that there has been a significant change in the fishing sector in the last few decades. The number of fish species, which were in abundance, has now declined; however, the number of fishing boats has increased and there is increased mechanization in the sector. Livestock comprises cattle, buffaloes and camels and feed on the mangroves with the later free grazing 10 months of the year.

Out-migration from the coastal areas is a significant aspect of the area especially as a result of the shortage of drinking water and disruption of livelihoods as well as vagaries of weather. According to the World Bank survey of Badin and Thatta, nearly 27% of the households reported migration from among their families from coastal areas between 2000 and 2004. In 57% of the cases of out-migration, the entire family moved out; in 31% of the cases, only part of the family moved out while in 4% of the out-migrations this was seasonal in nature. From among the families that out-migrated, one-third find daily wage labour, one-third undertake farming in another location, one-fifth are engaged in fishing while the rest undertake other types of work.

7. How sustainable aquaculture can be promoted for food security and nutrition, as well as livelihoods, in to longer term.

For Sustainable Fisheries / Aquaculture following points should be considered.

  • Education of fisher folks.
  • Replenishment of fish seed stocks in to the water bodies to enhance the fish potentials for food security on sustainable basis.
  • Production of pure strain of fish seed.
  • Implementation / adoption of code of conduct for responsible fisheries along with fisheries act or Ordinance of country pertaining to fisheries.
  • Provision of alternate livelihood sources for fishers with aim to conserve the declining fisheries stocks of Marine, Inland and Brackish waters.
  • To un-tap the brackish water resources of the coastal belt of Sindh for the sustainable intensification of aquaculture, and to engage the local inhabitants in to the culture activities along with provision of allied facilities like cold storage, fish processing units, fish markets to supply the hygienically proven fish meat, this will engage the local population in various activities and create job opportunities. Impact of such activities will be alternate livelihood source for the communities previously engaged fish capture activities.
  • Promote and facilitate farming community to invest in the fish processing, cold storage and fisheries related activities like cottage net waiving industry, boat making, operating and skill development programmes for the fish farming, preserving, handling and management techniques, usage  of post harvest equipment, maintenance etc.