PAKISTAN’s compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is weak, owing to a lack of effective deep sea fishing policy to end over-exploitation by unrestricted and unregulated growth in the national fishing fleet.
A revised deep sea fishing policy is needed to address the fishing access rules between the federally and provincially-managed waters for the national vessels which should limit or exclude the provision for access by foreign vessels, says an appraisal report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Under the existing fishing policy developed to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provisions, the focus is on joint venture arrangements with foreign vessels.
‘With surplus resources unexploited or under-exploited, fishing by the national fleet on the conventional stocks needs to be reduced by a very large margin’
There are reference points defined by UNCLOS and are based on maximum sustainable yield (MSY) from surplus production models. Pakistan has not developed any specific reference point in the current fisheries policy.
The FAO report released this week, stressed that with surplus resources unexploited or under-exploited by the fishing fleet, fishing by the national fleet on the conventional stocks needs to be reduced by a very large margin.
The appraisal report proposed that the government should establish a standing body of stakeholders, regulators and concerned parties to advise on the future developments of the fisheries policy. Globally such bodies range from solely advisory, to management planning, to regulatory functions.
The FAO-funded technical cooperation project envisaged a framework for such a fisheries body, but the ministry of ports and shipping did not opt to pursue this proposal.
Five offshore surveys were conducted under the FAO project, covering fish harbours, landing sites, beaches and creek banks to record particulars of 12,786 fishing vessels, of which 11,565 were operational.
A year-long survey in 14 creeks of the Indus delta was carried out using scientific instruments, bottom trawls and pelagic trawls.
All the major fish stocks are below target biomass levels and nine of the species groups are below the depleted threshold.
Only two species groups out of 14 show any indication that fishing mortality is at, or below, the limit.
The conclusion is that Pakistan’s marine fisheries are over-exploited and a process of significant reduction in fishing effort will be required to check big economic losses and the ecosystem.
One of the major reasons the total catch remains high is the existence of the ‘trash’ fishery to feed the demand for fish meal.
Published in Dawn, Business & Finance weekly, January 16th, 2017