FAO in Pakistan

FAO is Supporting the Fisheries Resources Appraisal in Pakistan

Planning and management of marine capture fisheries including adoption of sustainable fisheries measures are needed to sustain marine fisheries contributions to national economic growth, employment and development. In the case of the Pakistani marine fisheries effective management and sustainable practices are lacking, partly because of the generally poor research and information base available for management. Fisheries management in Pakistan needs significant enhanced capacity and essential up-to-date multidisciplinary knowledge of the fishery sector related to the state of the stocks at sea (from the coastal area to offshore deep waters) and the fisheries’ social and economic dynamics.

Pakistan’s marine resources are a major source of income and livelihood for over a million people living especially along the coasts of Balochistan and Sindh provinces. The country’s marine fishing activities are largely directed to intense exploitation of inshore resources with most of the fishing effort being concentrated in shallow coastal waters. The fishing effort is mainly deployed along the coast of Sindh and is directed toward shrimp resources, which were reported to be fully exploited. FAO recognizes the significant contribution fisheries is making to food security by providing technical assistance through the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. This Code promotes sustainable fisheries development through better ecological and environmental performance of the sector; regular analysis and reporting of fisheries development status and trends, sharing knowledge and information, and implementing efficient policies and legal frameworks which promote sustainable and equitable fisheries development with improved socio-economic benefits.

For the past 20 years the sustainability of marine capture fisheries in Pakistan has been at risk from poor knowledge of the resource status. Limitations include inadequate monitoring of commercial fishery catch, out-of-date assessments of fishery stocks, and limited availability of qualified human resources and training institutions. The potential to develop offshore deep-water fishing grounds needs further investigation to provide alternative resources for excess fishing effort along the coast.


In this regard, FAO Pakistan in collaboration with the Marine Fisheries Department of the Government of Pakistan since 2008 has been implementing the “Support to the Fishery Resources Appraisal in Pakistan” project to provide the national fishery management authority, the scientific community and the Marine Fisheries Department with a sound appraisal of the status and prospects of the country’s coastal and offshore fishery resources. The project has conducted fishery-independent surveys of offshore and mangrove creek areas and collected fishery-dependent data on fleet structure, catches and biological composition. The project has focused on the development of fishery research and management capacity within the national and provincial fisheries departments and sought to strengthen other fisheries-related institutions of Pakistan.

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department in Rome (headquarter) is providing technical backstopping to the project activities. The project conducted fisheries data collection and analysis with modern and sound methodologies to provide management information on (i) stock assessment, (ii) fishery statistics and information, and (iii) marine ecosystems. In addition to data collected during this project and older FAO fisheries projects in Pakistan, the original data forms from the historical (1974-1989) research surveys in Pakistan were retrieved and data entry was completed. The quantitative analysis of data from the completed surveys includes acoustic biomass estimation from the pelagic survey, swept-area analysis of the demersal surveys, and comparison where possible with data from earlier surveys. Stock assessments for mesopelagics, small pelagics and some demersals have been developed incorporating both survey and fisheries data.

A year-long survey of Indus delta creeks was also concluded and these data are ready for analysis. The size, timing and distribution of marine species within the creek system provide quantitative means to assess the role of these habitats for marine resources. Inshore surveys, using small and medium size fishing vessels, were designed to address specific management information needs. For example, a trawler mesh selectivity experiment was conducted to assess the expected costs and benefits from effective mesh size regulation at different mesh sizes.

Completing the projects activities over the past six years has entailed extensive on-the-job training to address different sampling techniques and data collection. Staff have become expert in laboratory processing of fisheries samples such as those from the trash fishery in Karachi Fish Harbour. There has been a great deal of effort on species identification as most of the available references are more than 20 years old and use obsolete taxonomic names. Appropriate current nomenclature was required for a widely expanded range of known species. The International Taxonomic Information System and Fishbase are invaluable in this respect. While electronic sources are invaluable in many situations, there remains a clear need for a robust and convenient field guide. FAO Pakistan is currently revising and updating the 1984 Pakistan Field Guide and the revised Second Edition will be published in 2015.

The project has assessed up-to-date spatial and temporal occurrence patterns and composition of coastal and offshore fishery resources. The fishing fleet capacity and fisheries production is also being monitored; enhanced scientific and technical skills in fisheries science; fisheries planning and management capability have been acquired in Marine Fisheries Department and other agencies, consistent with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries principles.

By the end of the project, it is anticipated that a framework will be established to allow for continued and timely appraisal of national marine fishery resources as required for responsible fisheries and their sustainable utilization and development. The project’s outcome will be the increased capability for fishery planning and management based on the sound knowledge of the state of the fishery resources and of the fisheries exploiting them.