Thousands of fishermen will set out on deep sea voyages in quest for better catches, marking the beginning of the annual fishing season on Wednesday (today) with prayers and celebrations. Deep sea fishing starts on August 1 every year, after the government lifts a month-long ban on fishing in July.
The beginning of a fishing season is always highlighted with festivity, sharing of sweets and celebrations at the Karachi Fish Harbour and Baba and Bhit Islands and other coastal areas adjoining the city. However, high tides coupled with a rough Arabian Sea and cloudy horizon worried fishermen, who feared that high-quality shrimp known as Jaira would be difficult to find in overcast weather. The shrimp catch, according to fishermen, lasts between August and mid-September every year.
Nearly 1,000 small and big fishing boats will resume their voyages from various coastal areas around the city in the first week of August. Some of them are likely to set sail on the eve of the new season. During June, July and August, Arabian Sea remains rough with high waves smashing on coastal areas around the city.
Fishermen of Baba and Bhit Islands glide their boats 15 nautical miles off the coast into Arabian Sea where they stay for as much as 24 hours in a bid to catch shrimp. Their tiny boats normally remain within the country’s territorial seawaters and return to their berths at sundown every evening.
Larger boats go far out into the sea and remain for about 20 or more days near Iran’s coastal area sailing through Pasni, Ormara and Gwadar waters off Balochistan. Some fishermen were hopeful that the overcast monsoon would help them catch a full net of shrimps of all main species and large-sized fish, beginning the season start with a good omen. They pointed out that some varieties of shrimps such as Kalri and Jaira – which have great appeal among consumers abroad – will be available in bulk in August and September.
Kiddi, a small shrimp, will start appearing later in September. It remains on seabed unlike Jaira which swims above the sea floor. Other famous shrimp species are: Tiger, Jumbo and Golden shrimps. Cuttle Fish [Maya], Ribbon Fish [Chind], Sardine Fish [Mori], Queen Fish [Sarum], Emperor [Mulla] and Silvery Grunter [Dother] will also be available in abundance in rough seas.
However, larger fish are effectively caught with fish-lines, which reaches down to seabed, defeating strong waves and undersea currents, while nets remain afloat underneath the waves. Fishermen said the peak shrimp catching season normally spans between June and August every year, after which shrimp started to disappear. They criticised fishing restrictions in July, which barred them from going out to the sea during this period.
During the previous fiscal year (2011-12), Pakistan’s earned an all-time high $315.525 million from seafood exports primarily to Chinese and Egyptian markets. The country grew its seafood export by 6.53 percent or $19.343 million, despite the EU’s ban. There is great demand in China for Pakistan’s cuttlefish and squid fish and it was somewhat tapped last year. Exporters say China’s import from Pakistan surged 90 percent and they hopethat the demand would increase in the coming years.