Local fishermen have always opposed operation of deep sea fishing trawlers in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). However, the unlawful activity goes own because certain quarters in the government are more than keen in making small personal gains and depriving the country from the catch as well as huge foreign exchange that could be earned from export of this catch.
According to a Dawn report the federal government has invited applications for issuance of licences to deep-sea fishing trawlers for operating in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Marine Fisheries Department (MFD) plans to issue 100 licences for various fishing vessels in the EEZ between 20-200 nautical miles.
According to the break up, the government aims to issue 25 licences for Tuna Longliners fishing vessels of up to 350 gross tonnage (GT), followed by 25 licences for Tuna Longliners from 351-1,000 GT. MFD will issue 30 licences Stern Trawlers (Single Boat Pelagic/Midwater Trawling) up to 350 GT, 15 licences for Squid Jiggers up to 350 GT and five licences for Tuna Purse Seiners up to 700 GT.
There is need to strongly oppose the move, especially because MFD and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has already undertaken a project called ‘Fishing Resources Assessment Project’ which warned of depleting fish stocks. Reportedly fish and shrimp landings have already reduced to 40 per cent as compared to above 90 percent three years ago. It is feared that if these trawlers are allowed fishing in Pakistan’s territorial waters then the stocks would further deplete.
MFD and Korangi Fisheries Harbour Authority (KFHA) have jointly defended the decision saying the Korangi Fish Harbour was primarily developed to promote deep-sea fishing beyond territorial waters (from 12 up to 200 nautical miles referred as EEZ, the water area measuring about 240,000 square kilometre) which falls under the federal jurisdiction. To protect the interest of local fishermen, a buffer zone from 12 to 20 nautical miles has been created where no foreign fishing vessel under joint venture with Pakistani nationals can operate.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) staged sit-in against issuance of licences to foreign deep sea fishing trawlers in front of Korangi Fisheries Harbour. Chairman PFF Mohammad Ali Shah said the fish stock has already shrunk due to over fishing and increasing marine pollution and these deep sea trawlers would further cause destruction.