India’s Blue Economy net getting bigger! Country ranks third in fisheries and second in aquaculture

February 14, 2020 3:45 AM

More blue economy reforms are needed to unlock fishing & aquaculture potential

To appreciate the significance of the blue economy geared by the ‘blue revolution’, one needs to understand the fishermen economy
Interim Budget FY20 had created a separate ministry for animal husbandry, livestock, and fisheries, and Union Budget FY20 allocated Rs 770.25 crore for fisheries for a comprehensive development. The budgetary allocation has further increased to Rs 825 crores in the current budget for FY 21. This budgetary support has recognised the significance of ‘blue economy’.

Centrally sponsored schemes including the Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries and Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund are made available to devise a framework of development, management, and conservation of marine (and inland) fisheries and to increase the exports by Rs 1 lakh crore in FY25.  For example, about 65,000 fishermen have been trained under these schemes since FY17 until FY20.

So, to appreciate the significance of blue economy geared by the ‘blue revolution’, one needs to understand the fishermen economy: what are the fish production systems and how does fishermen economy perform? Fish production system predominantly consists of capture fisheries, marine fisheries, aquaculture, enhancement and integrated fish farming.

India ranks third in fisheries production, and second in aquaculture. Fisheries alone has employed 145 million people and contributed to 1.07% of the GDP and generated export earnings of Rs 334.41 billion as per a recent estimate of National Fisheries Development Board. National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research reported the projected demand would go 11.80 million metric tonnes by FY21.

Freshwater aquaculture that contributes about 55% of the total fish production is predominantly driven by smallholder farmers and institutionalised culture fisheries in part. In small-scale fisheries, products are consumed at the household level or/and sold in local markets within the fishing community (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2008). Also, small-scale fisheries meet a raging concern for poverty reduction and food security in developing countries as it contains a rich animal protein and Omega 3 fatty acids, providing a nutritional diet.

While there has been a long-standing policy debate over natural resource utilisation and concern for environmental sustainability, small-scale fisheries and freshwater aquaculture system restores ecological safety by improving soil condition and water quality.  Freshwater aquaculture engenders sustainability through manure loading, nutrient cycling into the agri-food-ecosystem. We can draw some anecdotal evidences from Nigeria where 50% fish farmers depend on the integrated fish farming for their livelihoods. Fish farming in developing countries utilizing capture fisheries and small-scale subsistence aquaculture system has received external support for capacity building, adoption of improved production practices, institutional credit access, and trade facilitation.

From the governance and organisational view point, the fisheries sector has a long way to go to unleash the potential of blue economy.  First, South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies, working in the marine fisheries sector, can help bring the necessary reforms to marine fisheries since it follows an AMUL-like cooperative model with a three-tier federal structure. With over 9,104 member fishermen, organised through 153 primary fishermen marketing societies in Southern peninsular, the federation renders various services to 65,000 fish workers, including non-members, for the last two decades. Second, the FM made two important announcements for strengthening fisheries extension by mobilising 3,477 ‘sagar mitras’ and promoting 500 fish farmer producer organisations. Therefore, it is important to draw insights from states that have catalysed livelihood promotion of small-scale fishermen.

For instance, a donor agency and NABARD-funded integrated fish farming project was implemented in coastal regions of Odisha in 2011. A voluntary organisation, Gram Utthan , promoted four farmer producer companies with a paid-up capital of Rs 1 lakh for strengthening the market linkage of freshwater aquaculture in FY19. These organisations were hand-held by international donors for capacity building and World Fish for culturing the improved variety freshwater fish.

Third, skilling is important to subsistence of marginalised fishermen. In FY17, about 121,560 fishermen had undergone skill development training with an allocated budget of Rs 2.36 crores. Union Budget 2020 has aimed for skilling fishermen through fisheries extension akin to ‘MatsyaVigyanKendras’ in collaboration with the Central Fisheries Research Institute.

(The writer is an Assistant Professor, IIM Lucknow. Views are personal)

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