Pakistan plans to permit Chinese organizations for deep-sea fishing in the nation’s regional waters. However, activists representing Pakistani fishermen stated that the decision could undermine at least 3 million people’s livelihoods.
A month earlier, Twelve Chinese deep-sea fishing vessels moored at the port of Karachi, disturbing local fishermen who argued that fishing vessels for enterprises and bottom trawling would drain fish stocks in the restrictive government ocean zones off the regions of Sindh and Baluchistan.
Bottom trawling includes dragging nets to sweep up fish around the seafloor thereby stirring up the sediments on the seabed and displacing or damaging some marine organisms, allowing contaminants to blend with plankton and transfer into the food chain, producing toxic blooms of algae or dead zones of oxygen deficiency.
Mohammad Ali Shah, chairman of Pakistan Fisherfolk forum asserted that Sindh and Baluchistan coastal line is about 1,050 kilometers long and on which three million fishermen are dependent on their livelihoods whereas the government had planned a new fishing policy but had yet to announce it.
“The deep-sea trawler policy has not yet been approved, but before that, they (China) have brought these trawlers,” Shah stated while labeling the Chinese vessels as illegal.
Earlier in 2018, a deep-sea fishing licensing scheme was introduced which was resisted by the provincial government and groups representing local fishermen. They declared it as a constitutional breach and an invasion of fishermen’s livelihoods in the coastal provinces.
Pakistan makes around $450 million yearly for its fish exports. However, the worrisome situation regarding the foreign fishing enterprises threatening the locals is not new and for a very long time, people of Baluchistan have voiced against it.
Abdul Berr, FCS chairman stated: “Bringing Chinese trawlers for deep-sea fishing is in line with the government’s deep-sea fishing policy and aimed at upgrading and modernizing fishing, besides providing job opportunities to local fishermen. Around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats.
First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial, territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi, where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”
Abdul Bari Pitafi minister of Sindh for livestock and fisheries added: “We will also oppose its (trawlers’) operations in Zone 3 because they will just wipe out sea life including the fish’s seed.”
A 2016 Food and Agriculture Organization survey had reported a decline of 72% of the fish stock in the coastal areas of Pakistan.