Separate Department for Fisheries in the Union Government

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    7th Mar, 2019

Issue

Context

  • India is the world’s second-largest fish producer with exports worth more than Rs 47,000 crore. Fisheries are the country’s single-largest agriculture export, with a growth rate of 6 to 10 per cent in the past five years.
  • Realizing its importance in export earnings and job potential, the Union Government created a separate department for fisheries.

Background

Fisheries are the primary source of livelihood for several communities. A concentrated effort by an independent department could help the government achieve its objective of doubling farmers’ income, provided its policies address the challenge of sustainability.

  • The fisheries and aquaculture production contributes around 1% to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and over 5% to the agricultural GDP.
  • According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018” apparent per capita fish consumption in India average (2013-15), lies in a range of 5 to 10 Kg.

Government efforts in the sector

  • Blue Revolution Scheme: In view of the potential fisheries resources in the aquaculture, inland fisheries, coastal & marine fisheries and substantial scope of export augmentation, The Fisheries division of Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India is implementing various developmental schemes under the umbrella of “Blue Revolution Scheme” for overall development of fisheries sector.
  • Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF): The FIDF aims to achieve a sustainable growth of 8 % to 9 % in a move to augment fish production to the level of about 20 million tonnes by 2022-23. It will create employment opportunities for over 9.40 lakh fishermen and entrepreneurs in fishing and allied activities.
  • National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB): It is implementing various schemes and components since its inception in 2006 for development of Fisheries in the country. Followings are its main objectives:
  • To provide focused attention to fisheries and aquaculture (production, processing, storage, transport and marketing)
  • To achieve sustainable management and conservation of natural aquatic resources
  • To apply modern tools of research and development including biotechnology for optimizing production and productivity from fisheries
  • To enhance the contribution of fish towards food and nutritional security.
  • To train and empower women in the fisheries sector and also generate substantial employment.

From 2016-17 onwards, the NFDB scheme has been subsumed in umbrella scheme of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme on “Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries” and NFDB has become one of the major component of the said restructured scheme.

Analysis

  • With diverse resources ranging from deep seas to lakes in the mountains and more than 10% of the global biodiversity in terms of fish and shellfish species, the country has shown continuous and sustained increments in fish production since independence.
  • The total fish production of 10.07 million metric tonnes presently has nearly 65% contribution from the inland sector and nearly the same from culture fisheries
  • Fish and fish products have presently emerged as the largest group in agricultural exports of India, with 10.51 lakh tonnes in terms of quantity and Rs.33,442 crores in value.
  • This accounts for around 10% of the total exports of the country and nearly 20% of the agricultural exports. More than 50 different types of fish and shellfish products are exported to 75 countries around the world.

World fisheries sector faces the challenge of sustainability:

  • State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture reports note that nearly 90 per cent of the global marine fish stocks have either been fully-exploited or over-fished or depleted to an extent that recovery may not be biologically possible.
  • To meet the demand for animal protein, global fish production should touch 196 million tonnes by 2025 (currently at 171 million tonnes)

But India has the potential to bridge this gap provided it concentrates on aquaculture — fish farming:

  • India has a comparative advantage.
  • It has a marine fisher population of 3.5 million; 10.5 million people are engaged in inland fishery and fish farming.
  • That being said, the productivity in both sectors is low — in terms of per fisher, per boat and per farm. In Norway, a fisherman/farmer catches/produces 250 kg per day while the Indian average is four to five kg
  • But, India had a better rate of convergence as compared to the rest of the world.
  • Blue Revolution scheme seeks to make fishery and aquaculture a viable vocation.

Blue Revolution has two approaches:

  1. Sustainable capture fishery to harness marine and inland water resources
  2. Expanding the horizon of fish farming through increased coverage, enhanced productivity, species diversification and better market returns

Current challenges:

  • Marine capture fishery comprises largely of small fishermen who operate traditional boats, this limits scaling up of productivity. Also, these vessels cannot operate beyond near shore waters.
  • This means that while the near-shore coastal waters are highly overfished, the high value fish stock proliferates in the deep seas.

Response of the Government:

New National Policy on Marine Fisheries: It is expected to guide the development of marine fisheries sector for the next 10 years.

Fish production in India is estimated at 11.4 million tonnes, out of which 68% is registered from inland fisheries sector and the remaining 32% from marine sector.

It is expected that the indigenous fish requirement by 2020 would be 15 million tonnes as against the production of 11.4 million tonnes. This gap of 3.62 million tonnes is expected to be made up by Inland Aquaculture and also through mariculture.

Estimates by scientists that the fishery resources of near-shore waters within the 200 meters depth zone are either optimally utilized or sometimes over-exploited, which is a matter of serious concerns for the livelihood of traditional fishermen.

The government has decided to promote 'marine culture fisheries' and included the sub-components of ‘Mariculture' under 'Blue Revolution' Scheme.

Open sea cage farming is one of the eco-friendly farming activities under mariculture which is being practiced in open sea where wave action is less.

The fishes that are being cultured in cages are high value fishes; hence there is a huge export demand for cage cultured fishes.

What the new policy and action of the government envisages:

  • Intensive fish farming through increased stocking of seed.
  • Better feed quality and diversification of species.
  • Re-circulatory aquaculture system to realize the goal of more crop per drop.
  • Investment in hatcheries to meet the ever-increasing demand for good quality fish seed.
  • Cage culture in reservoirs and other open water bodies has been introduced: This new practice gives freedom to fishermen from the risk of traversing dangerous rivers and restricted reservoirs.

Way forward:

The new department has been envisioned that it will give undivided attention to creating and strengthening infrastructure facilities in marine and inland fisheries. This is intended to give a boost to aquaculture and post-harvest activities. The country has been forecasted to be producing more than 15 million tonnes fish by the end of 2019. This pathway has been visualized as a way to create a model of sustainable fish production.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

“In order to meet the ever-increasing demand for animal protein, global fish production should touch 196 million tonnes by 2025. Taking into account the current depletion rate of marine fish stocks, that seems next to impossible. However, India has the potential to bridge this gap provided it concentrates on aquaculture”. Analyze this statement and critically evaluate the potential effectiveness of the separate department for fisheries in the Union government.

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