Dr. Akhil Gupta
Coastal and inland fisheries are vital to the livelihoods and food and nutrition of billions around the world. As we mark World Fisheries Day on November 21, we reflect on the often-unnoticed efforts of small-scale fisheries communities; the local fishers, processors, and traders who harvest aquatic foods from ponds, rivers, lakes, and oceans throughout the world. Fisheries play a critical role in local and global aquatic food systems. From seaweeds and sea cucumbers to crustaceans and fish, the vast range of aquatic foods harvested from fisheries contributes to resilient, sustainable, and diverse diets and income streams from the associated trading and processing activities of the value chain.
Currently, fishing communities around the world are dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic such as market disruptions and shut-downs that severely impact incomes, food availability, and affordability and thus affecting the entire food system and the livelihoods it supports. The fisheries scientists, with the support of State and Union government through different projects, schemes and extension work, are making efforts to understand and create solutions to improve the productivity, resilience, and sustainability of small-scale fisheries.
Fisheries Sector In India
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a looming crisis for the global and Indian economies. The ongoing pandemic has created a prolonged health crisis. Economic activity was slowing prior to the pandemic. Two COVID-19 waves have resulted in a deep and broad-based economic downturn with the potential for a longer lasting impact. One of the most serious impacts is expected to be on food security.
In India, owing to its massive coastline of over 8,000 km and a vast network of rivers, fisheries have always played a significant role in India’s economy. Currently, this sector provides livelihood to more than 2.8 crore people within the country. Nevertheless, this is a sector with untapped potential. The Economic Survey of India, 2019-20 estimated that, only 58% of the country’s inland potential has been tapped so far. The present budget has taken effective steps towards addressing the challenges and optimizing the potential of this sector.
Despite challenges pertaining to infrastructure, the measures by the Central government in the past six years ensured that fisheries sector continued to register an annual growth rate of more than 10 percent. In 2019-20, with an overall production of 142 lakh tons, India produced 8% of the global share. During the same time period, India’s fisheries exports stood at Rs 46,662 crore, constituting about 18% of India’s agricultural exports.
In keeping with our Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)-effective governance of ‘Blue Economy’ would mean striking a balance between effectively utilizing fisheries to meet consumer demands and sustain livelihoods of fishing communities on one hand and preserving the ecosystem on the other. The Centre through its schemes envisions leveraging an investment of more than Rs. 50,000 crore in the next five years that includes contributions from states, beneficiaries, and financial institutions.
The recently concluded Blue Revolution Scheme launched in 2015-16 with Rs 3000 crore outlay, for over five years, made vital contributions towards the sector’s development. To address the critical gaps in fisheries infrastructure, the government created the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund in 2018-19 with an outlay of Rs. 7,522 crore.
Significance of Fish
Fish is a low-fat high-quality protein. Fish is filled with vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin). Eating fish is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids. Two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Our bodies don’t produce omega-3 fatty acids so we must get them through the food we eat. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in every kind of fish, but are especially high in fatty fish. Fish is rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium. These essential nutrients keep our heart and brain healthy. For a healthy heart, it is recommended to eat fish twice a week. Eating fish also helps to normalize blood pressure and reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The health benefits of fish are more than enough reason to eat them, but they are also a delicious meal. There is a large variety of fish to choose from, including freshwater and saltwater varieties. However, the increased amount of people eating fish has had an impact on wild populations. To prevent certain species from being overfished, it is important to find an alternative to providing fish to people, and that includes aquaculture.
Different types of aquacultures must be used to raise different species of fish. Large companies can engage in aquaculture on an industrial scale with fish held in tanks or in pens in lakes, ponds or even the ocean. Families can even perform aquaculture in their backyard. The variety of fish that you can raise for food includes carp, catfish, trout, tilapia, etc. It’s also possible to raise shellfish, including freshwater prawn and shrimp. In some areas aquaculture has made an enormous impact on the local community’s economy and employment as well. The food produced helps to sustain growing population and provides local jobs with steady income.
Humans have the ingenuity and drive to make the world a better place for themselves and others. Population growth isn’t going to slow down any time soon, and we need to make sure everyone is taken care of and has enough to eat. While aquaculture has its pros and cons, it can be a sustainable and economic way to feed hungry people. In time, it may even be the answer to Ensure Food Security and Health during the Pandemic.
Transforming Matsya Sampada with Matsya Samridhi
The fisheries sector has witnessed three major transformations in the last few years: a) the growth of inland aquaculture, specifically freshwater aquaculture,
b) the mechanization of capture fisheries, and
c) the successful commencement of brackish water aquaculture.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) with an investment of over Rs 20,000 crore for five years towards the sector development. As compared to last year there has been a 34% increase in the budget for fisheries sector in 2021-22.
This year’s budget will pave the way for further growth of the sector and bridge critical gaps through demonstrative activities and technology infusion, propelling a horizontal and vertical growth. This budget is an initiative to realise the vision of the Prime Minister to double our fish production, transforming Matsya Sampada with Matsya Samridhi by creating wealth and prosperity in the fishing community.
(The author is Associate Professor (Fisheries), SKUAST-Jammu)
Dr. Akhil Gupta