ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has exported around 103,277 tons of fish and fish preparations during first three quarters of last fiscal year which contributed $276.269 million precious foreign exchange to national exchequer.

The export of fish and fish preparations during same period of 2015-16 was 92,046 tons, amounting to $240.038 million. A data issued by Commerce Division on Sunday revealed that exports of fish and fish preparations have witnessed an increase by 12.2 percent in quantity and 15.09 percent in value during last year.

The major buyers are China, Thailand, Malaysia, Middle East, Sri Lanka, Japan etc. The sources said fishery plays an important role in Pakistan's economy and is considered to be a source of livelihood for coastal inhabitants. Apart from marine fisheries, inland fisheries (based in rivers, lakes, ponds, dams etc) are also very important activity throughout the country.

Fisheries' share in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 0.41 percent but has a value addition in export earnings. During 2016-17 (July-March), total marine and inland fish production was estimated at 520,000 tons out of which 375,000 tons were marine production and remaining catch came from inland waters. Whereas, the production for period 2015-16 (July-March), was estimated to be 501,000 tons in which 368,000 tons was marine and remaining was produced by inland fishery sector.

The sources said that number of initiatives was being taken by federal and provincial fisheries to improve the sector. Departments which included inter alia strengthening of extension services, introduction of new fishing methodologies, development of value added products, enhancement of per capita consumption of fish, and upgradation of socio-economic conditions of the fishermen's community.

The government also arranged training of around 2,455 fishermen and fisheries related personnel on different aspects to bring high quality products which fetch higher price in market. These trainings were also aimed at reducing post-harvest losses on board fishing vessels and were imparted on hygiene, deckhand, navigational electronic equipment, HACCP, modern fishing techniques etc.

Moreover, the sources said that in order to enhance export of seafood products, a model shrimp farm in District Thatta, Sindh has been established by Fisheries Development Board with funding from Export Development Fund (EDF) to enhance supply of raw material for seafood industry in Pakistan. They said in order to enhance seafood exports and curb smuggling of seafood to Afghanistan and other countries from Peshawar, four new development projects are being implemented.

These included establishment of Regional Office & Testing Laboratory of Marine Fisheries Department at Peshawar, establishment of Regional Office & Testing laboratories of Marine Fisheries Department at Gwadar, upgradation and Accreditation of Quality Control Laboratories for Environmental Contamination and reactivation of Hatchery Complex for Production of Fish and Shrimp Seeds.

The sources said under Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2015-18, matching grant of up to a maximum of Rs5 million for specified plant and machinery or specified items is provided to improve product design and encourage innovation in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and export sectors of leather, pharmaceutical and fisheries.

The EDF Board also approved Rs96 million for establishment of Pen Feh farm of sea bass and groupers along coastal belt of Sindh. The sources said after a period of about six years, the European Union (EU) allowed resumption of export of Fish & Fishery products from Pakistan to EU countries. It may be recalled that the fish processing plants were de-listed by EU. Two fish processing plants have been enlisted by EU and case of enlistment of five more processing plants is in process with EU.

They said to meet requirement of EU and other importing countries, two laboratories (Microbiology & Chemical) have been accredited from Pakistan National Accreditation Council. Moreover, the sources said to meet the requirement of EU and other importing countries, 2,000 fishing boats have been modified which is a success story for Pakistan.

The other initiative was that pursuant to requirement of EU and other importing countries, on Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP), guidelines have been prepared and distributed to 137 fish exporters/processors to ensure quality of seafood.