A Greenpeace report released on the occasion of “World Oceans Day” on Friday warns that India may suffer a three pronged threat due to depleting fish stocks and neglect of marine conservation. The report was formally released by Basudev Acharya, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.
Fisheries industry contributes to about two per cent of India’s GDP in addition to providing livelihood to about 15 million people. Depleting fish stocks would not only result in massive job losses but would also damage the ecology and the national GDP, the report says.
Ninety per of India’s fish resources are at or above maximum sustainable levels of exploitation. The Greenpeace findings claim convincingly contradicting the official stand that there is still scope for fish landings to increase in India despite the dangerously depleting fish stocks.
In addition to an average annual output value of Rs. 42, 178 crore, marine fisheries form an important socio-economic component of the coastal regions. The fisheries sector has also been one of the major contributors to foreign exchange earning through export.
The report states that India’s fish exports were worth over US $2.8 billion in 2010-2011. Over 45 per cent of this export value came from marine capture fisheries and official targets are to raise this to US $ 6 billion by 2015.
The report is based on statistical data and first hand information of the experience of fishermen. It also gives stress on the ecological damage to marine biodiversity as a result of overfishing. “Capacity, intensity and technology used in combination directly impacts populations of specific species of fish and also negatively alter the ecosystems.”
Too many fishing boats leading to over-fishing, an over reliance on destructive fishing techniques and continued government subsidies for the mechanised fisheries sector are the main causes of the current over-exploitation. The report says the situation has been worsened by rampant pollution, destruction of breeding grounds such as mangrove forests and estuarine areas, hot water discharge from thermal power plants, industrial effluents, sewage from major urban centres and coastal over development.
In the wake of these findings, T. Peter, secretary of the National Fishworkers Forum called for a “comprehensive policy that would address the crisis by moving towards a sustainable approach to fishing that involves fishermen in decision making”. Areeba Hamid, Greenpeace campaigner said that current levels of mechanised fishing are ecologically unsustainable.