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Export fetches lowest rates Pak quality seafood stocks under threat

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By S N Syed

KARACHI: With the seafood stocks amid overfishing, Pakistan’s fish and fish preparations’ exports have fetched the lowest prices in the region, market sources said.

Quantity as well as value of seafood exports in July 2018 remained low. In July 2018, the country exported 5,452 tons of $11.837 million against 5,613 tons of $12.776 million in July 2017, fetching lower quantity by 2.87 percent while value remained down by 7.35 percent.

China is one of the largest buyers of Pakistan’s fish and fish preparations. Other buyers include Hong Kong, Indonesia, Egypt, Middle East, UK, Thailand, South Korea, Bangladesh etc.

Pakistan’s fish and fish preparations export are fetching per unit price of $2.27 to $2.5, which is lowest in the region’s average price of around $7,” said Faisal Iftikhar, former president Pakistan Fisheries Exporters Association. “Our prices show that we export more fish meal and our prices are lower than quality fish meal price, which fetches $3/unit. We are going behind low quality exports.”

He said that quality seafood stocks were depleted in Pakistani waters because of overfishing and use of destructive nets. Pakistan mostly exports to China at lower rates while EU lifted ban from two factories only amid political pressure without inspecting the factories on ground, he said. “Revival of exports to EU had no significant impact over Pakistan’s total seafood exports.”

Pakistan’s seafood export has been resumed to EU, but only one factory, out of approved two factories, is exporting to EU. Only two factories were approved by the authority. However, prices by the EU remains low. “These prices are similar to China, which are very low,” said Capt. Akhlaque, whose factory is the only factory exporting seafood to EU. “We are not in a bargaining position. India is controlling the prices, whose 200 factories export to EU.”

According to Marine Fisheries Department, there are around 150 fish and seafood exporting firms in Pakistan, of which 35 operate in the premises of Karachi Fish Harbour.

Akhlaque said that commercial fish stocks were not depleted completely. “When ban on fishing is fully implemented during the breeding season in June and July months, better stocks develop,” he said. “This is ban is being implemented and there are chances of better fishing in the current fiscal year.”

Muhammad Ali Shah, chairmen Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, a representative body of fishermen, said that processing and transportation of fish to the harbour was poor, which deteriorated the quality of fish resulting in lower prices in the international market. “Fish caught in KT Bunder is transported to Karachi Fish Harbour in poor manner, which deteriorates its quality,” he said.  Shah said that deep-sea fishing and overfishing had affected the commercial fish stocks, which were rapidly reducing in Pakistani waters. “Marine pollution and use of harmful nets are increasing the woes,” he said.

The Fisheries Resources Appraisal in Pakistan Project, a Unilateral Trust Fund project of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN and the Government of Pakistan has also stated about depletion of seafood resources.

“The overall status for all the major fish stocks of Pakistan is that they are all below target biomass levels and nine of the species groups are below the depleted threshold,” says the project report. “Only two species groups out of 14 show any indication that fishing mortality is at or below the limit. All of Pakistan‘s marine fisheries are fully to be over-exploited.”

The report says the prospects for an economically vibrant and growing fishery are very poor and reduced exports, reduced value, and reduced food fish production are all to be expected even as fish meal production increases.

Over fishing is the major cause behind depletion of fish resources. In the 1980s it was estimated that the fleet was approximately 6,500 vessels and it is now over 11,500. In the 1980s it was judged that 550 shrimp trawlers would be sufficient to economically harvest the shrimp. Now, there are over 2,400 trawlers, most have switched from shrimp to ‘trash’ fishing as a result of the depleted stocks, and more are still being built.

“It is recommended that policy and regulatory steps be taken to reduce the fleet size overall to less than 6,000 vessels and the trawler fleet should be specifically limited to less than 600 out of the total,” recommended the project findings.

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