The formation of a separate department for fisheries at the Centre, a long-pending demand of various stakeholders, may usher in a blue revolution that will stimulate growth in the sector and improve the lives of the coastal community.
A Ramachandran, Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) told BusinessLine that the fisheries department used to get least priority both in terms of Budget allocation and priorities in implementation of various activities as it is part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. Fisheries and aquaculture in India is an important sector supporting over 14 million fishermen and several million involved in the value chain.
With marine, brackish water and freshwater resources, among others, and more than 10 per cent of the global biodiversity in terms of fish and shellfish species, the country has shown a continuous and sustained increment in fish production.
Constituting about 6.3 per cent of global fish production, he pointed out that the sector contributes 1.1 per cent of the GDP and 5.15 per cent of the agricultural GDP.
India is the second-largest fish producing country, with total fish production of 10.07 million tonnes, and earned foreign exchange of Rs. 45,106.89 crore in 2017-18. This accounts for around 10 per cent of the total exports of the country and nearly 20 per cent of the agricultural exports, Ramachandran said.
India has huge potential to increase fish production from 2.02 million sq km of Exclusive Economic Zones, 1.91 lakh km of rivers and canals, 3.15 million hectares of reservoirs, and 1.24 million hectares of brackish water. This will enhance employment and the revenue of the country, he added.
Wanted: A ministry
Scientists at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) said that the fishing community is facing a host of issues that could be addressed properly if there is a separate Fisheries Ministry at the Centre.
The move may bring in more coordination in conservation measures, fishing regulatory measures and protection of interest of fishermen. Exclusive attention is required to address issues pertaining to the sector, such as dwindling catch, marine pollution, overfishing, climate change, and market stagnation, they said. “Right now, we have been spread out to various ministries to find solutions for our issues. If there is a single department to address the concerns, it will help reduce our burden — right from raw material imports to getting export incentives for seafood shipments”, said Alex Ninan, President, Seafood Exporters Association, India-Kerala Region.
However, Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal, General Secretary of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, said that the formation of a separate department will not serve the purpose for a coordinated action plan in the sector.
“For the last 15 years, we have been demanding for a separate ministry. We have untapped resources in the seas, but the sector is faced with problems such as usage of antibiotics, quality degradation of fish, export related issues and receiving finance which comes under different ministries. The formation of a separate ministry alone will address those issues and enable quick decisions”, he said.