As the fishing season starts, seafood exporters eye a huge jump in shrimp exports to world markets during this fiscal year, but they are worried by a slow down in trade with China over the past two months. Fishing boats ventured out into the sea on August 1, as exporters and fishermen hope that huge landings of shrimps will mark the beginning of the new fishing season.
Exporters are waiting for the next two months to resume seafood export to China else, otherwise they will have to explore new markets. They desire a huge increase in export to China in the current financial year. “Seafood export to China has slowed down in the last two months, but we are hoping that the situation will improve in the next two months. If it does not, we will have to search new venues,” a leading seafood exporter, Akhlaq Hussain Abedi, told Business Recorder on Wednesday.
However, fishermen, boat owners and exporters are still doubtful about the size of shrimp landing: their last year’s catch was poor. “Boats have just set sails. We will know about the actual extent of the shrimp catch this year when they return. It all depends on sea behaviour,” Patron-in-Chief of Sindh Trawler Owners and Fishermen Association Sarwar Siddiqui said.
However, small boats, which return compulsorily by sundown, might face navigational and landing problems at Karachi Fish Harbour, as fishermen continue complaining about congestion in dock channel created by hundreds of abandoned fishing vessels. “How will our boats reach the dock in the evening? The large number of abandoned fishing vessels is blocking the passage of catch landing,” President of Native Islanders Fishermen Association (NIFA) Asif Bhatti told Business Recorder. Akhlaq Hussain Abedi criticised the government’s decision to impose fishing ban for just one month, instead of two months, saying such a trend “may diminish marine resources”.
He said seafood export to China had slowed down in the past two months, adding that the trade decline could create difficulties for exporters. He said exporters would wait for next two months to see if full scale exports resumed. Otherwise, they would have to find new markets.
“Seafood stocks are likely to decline with exploitation continuing throughout the year without any let up. Even during the ban in July, illegal fishing was continuing,” he said. Between 100 and 200 tons of shrimps would land every day, he said, adding that with over-hunting of seafood, the country was gradually going to lose its marine resources.
“Such a big landing of shrimp in any season in the future is now impossible,” said Abedi, adding that the government should rigorously implement a two-month fishing ban to save marine life. Sarwar Siddiqui said in the first phase, around 70 large vessels left for hunting on August 1. He said rains may increase the yield of shrimps, including varieties known as Jaira and Kalari. “If shrimp yield increases this season, seafood landing may grow,” he said.
Asif Bhatti said about 100 Hela (small boats) sailed off Karachi coast in the morning and would return to dock in the evening, hoping that the first landing “will be greater in size laden with Kalari shrimp”. However, crab hunting, he said, would start in September. But it was not a priority for the fishermen. “Fishermen will go after shrimp this season,” he added.
Pakistan exported seafood worth $315.525 million in the last fiscal year which is 6.53 percent higher or $19.343 million more than the commodity’s export of $296.182 million in the previous fiscal year (2010-11). Pakistan exported 124,489 tons of seafood in the last fiscal year.