Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Sunday lamented that Maharashtra has registered negative growth in the aquaculture sector and asked the State government to undertake policy initiatives to rectify the situation.

“The national growth rate in fish production was 6 per cent. West Bengal, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu had surged ahead of Maharashtra, which posted negative growth,” he said at the inauguration of the three-day National Fish Festival at the Bandra-Kurla Complex here.

These States had submitted several proposals to the Hyderabad-based National Fisheries Development Board to avail the benefits announced by the Centre for fish cultivation, but that was not enough, Mr. Pawar said.

“Merely writing letters was not enough, one has to submit detailed project reports,” he said.

The Maharashtra government should take up repair and construction of fishing jetties and also modernise the Sassoon Dock fish market in Mumbai, the former CM said.

He asked the State to provide land for the aquaculture business and wanted the Maharashtra government to address the housing problems of fishermen along the coast.

Fish exports from India rake in an annual revenue of around Rs. 9,000 crore for the country, out of which Rs. 2,000 crore comes from Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Industry Minister Narayan Rane, who hails from coastal Konkan, said, “Even though Maharashtra’s share in fish exports was more than Rs. 1,600 crore, it is necessary to evaluate if the fishing community had actually benefited. The Konkan region had no facilities for marketing, processing of fish and even cold storage.”

According to Mr. Rane, Malaysia had 400 centres of ornamental fish-keeping and breeding, an area which is not given much importance in India, even though it has a vast coastline.

Mr. Rane criticised environmental activists for opposing infrastructure development in the Konkan region on grounds that the environment would be harmed.

“How can we harm the environment when we also have to live in there? Development is also important,” he said.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said, “The concerns of the fisher-folk community regarding security post the 26/11 terror attacks are being looked into. The process of providing identity cards to fishermen is underway.”

He expressed confidence that initiatives like the National Fish Festival would boost the prospects of the fishing community and usher in a ‘Blue Revolution’ in the country.