PFF slams issuing licenses to deep sea trawlers

KARACHI: Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) on Sunday criticized the government’s Marine Fisheries Department, which has invited deep sea trawler companies of the country to issue licenses of fishing.

PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah in a statement condemned the government’s approach to exploit the marine resources, which are already declining fast due to over fishing by big trawling vessels using harmful nets and increasing marine pollution.

The PFF leaders plead that more than 70 percent fish catch has declined, forcing fish workers to stay idle at home and several families have lost their traditional source of income. For example, they said, earlier a boat used to bring 2000—3000 kg, now brings hardly 100—200 kg, which is insufficient to provide proper share to the poor crews. At some occasions the fishing boats return empty and the crew members cannot feed their kids.

According to advertisement appeared quite recently, these deep sea trawlers will be allowed to operate within Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Pakistan. The government has offered 100 licenses to the trawlers in different category, depending on their capacity of catch.

“It is not only the issue of marketing and generating money, the government should keep in mind impacts of fishing on ecosystem, which is already fragile due to increasing pressure on the sea,” the statement said, adding that since these trawlers have larger fishing nets, they pull through machines destroy the marine species, which come under nets.

It is worldwide understanding that the bottom trawl gear destroys important habitat that sustain the ecosystem. The destructive gear — used to catch an estimated 80 percent of deep-sea species on the high seas— leaves coral gardens and sponge beds devastated. These habitats provide many important ecosystem services to other species, including those targeted by deep-sea fishing operations.

The statement also suggested that most deep-sea fish cannot survive the changes in pressure as they are brought up from the depths, so fish are discarded dead. And deep-sea fish are adapted to conditions of low turbulence and their skin is not covered by mucus, so there is also high mortality among fish that escape through trawl meshes.

The trawlers usually have entire processing system within they sort out commercial fish and throw back the less commercial dead fish in to the sea, cause marine pollution.

The studies of impacts of operating trawlers have realized the world coastal nations to avoid issuing licenses to the trawlers to make the natural resources sustainable so future generations may earn their living.

PFF has already launched the campaign against such moves and presently expressed concern over the move of the government to issue licenses to the country trawler companies. PFF has advised the government to realize the fact and conduct study to see the current status of fish stocks within the sea. Because, the community perspective shows that there is no more fish and the people depending on fish catch are facing hardships and economical pressure due to joblessness.

PFF also appealed to the coastal people and those keeping watch on marine ecology to come forward against the recent move and stop issuing licenses to the deep sea trawlers to save resources.

The statement said the situation could be gauged from the fact that fishermen and boat owners from Sindh and Balochistan were accusing each other of affecting their resources. Now the trawlers will destroy the resources of both the provinces, affecting the poor workforce to stay idle at homes without jobs.

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