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Sustainable Fishing: The Way forward

Indian fisheries sector has come a long way since independence and has contributed immensely to the food basket of the country, with annual production levels of over 10.07 million tonnes of fish and shellfish from capture fisheries and aquaculture.


In recent years, fishery sector in India has made notable strides with a growth trend similar to that of the world. It contributes to 1% of total GDP of India supporting the livelihood security of more than 15 million people directly and indirectly. With an estimated 12-fold increase in export earnings from fishery sector during the last two decades, this sector envisages a major feeder to growth of Indian economy.But, the sector is also facing many challenges. An increase in fishing intensity, declining stocks, conflict between the fishing sectors, inappropriate exploitation pattern, habitat degradation have been identified to be the major problems of coastal fisheries, presently. Regulation of mesh size, fishing areas, seasonal closure of fishing, ban of destructive gears, promotion of marine sanctuaries and artificial reefs, sea ranching, effective code of conduct for responsible fishing have to be implemented to ensure sustainable growth in this sector. Further, strategies have to be formulated to boost production and sustain growth by introducing fuel-efficient and resources specific craft and gear, eco-friendly and responsible fishing techniques for EEZ, post-harvest value addition, waste utilization and by-products from un-conventional fish species, biomedical, pharmaceutical and industrial products from aquatic organisms and expansion of domestic and international marketing network. Aquaculture is emerging as a potential sub-sector for fish production and employment generation. Shrimp forms major contributor to aquaculture production and carp culture is another major economic enterprise.


The necessity of bringing more species of promise into the carp culture practice is essential and should be taken up for further boosting production. Thrust has to be given on increasing area under aquaculture, increasing productivity, diversification of candidate species, research support for sustainability, cofriendly and techno-economically viable hatchery culture systems, fish health management and disease diagnostics, fish nutrition and feed formulation, fish genetics and selective breeding and utilization of inland saline soils for aquaculture.


11th Indian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum


The 11th Indian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum (11th IFAF), to be held in Cochin from 21-24 November 2015, envisions to address the major issues hindering the growth of Fisheries and Aquaculture sectors by providing a scientific platform for intellectual deliberations by best of scientific talents from India and abroad on current research outputs and identify the research and development needs of the sector.


It would provide a comprehensive outlook for Fisheries and Aquaculture sectors, for achieving greater synergy among stakeholders and planning strategies for capture fisheries and aqua farming to build higher levels of sustainability and profitability in line with Blue Growth Initiative. The proposed scientific event will have deliberations on the following areas 1) Fisheries Resources” Genetics, Biodiversity and Management; 2) Fishing Systems for Sustainable Fisheries; 3) Fishery Biology, Toxicology and Environment; 4) Aquaculture production; 5) Aquatic Animal Health Management; 6) Adding Value to fish: Avenues in fish Processing & Packaging; 7) Safe Fish: Quality, Risk Assessment and Regulations; 8 ) Fishomics and Frontier Sciences for Blue Bio – economy; 9)Socio – Economics, Gender, Capacity Building and Livelihood and 10) Fisheries Trade, Policy and Governance.

This event includes Symposia, Seafood Processors’ Conclave, Business Meet and Technology showcasing by different organizations. It will be hosted by the ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (ICARCIFT) in collaboration with Asian Fisheries Society Indian Brach (AFSIB) with a focus on ‘Fostering innovations in fisheries and aquaculture’.


ICAR-CIFT’s contribution


Founded in 1957 under the aegis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research; ICAR- CIFT has proven its excellence in development of fishing and fish processing technologies. Since its inception, this institute has been playing a pivotal role in developing the harvest and postharvest technologies in the fields of fish harvesting, processing, packaging, product development, quality assurance, fishery by-products, fishery waste utilization etc., thus giving a boost to the aquaculture and seafood industries in the country.


The institute undertakes high caliber and innovative research activities, trainings, partnerships and entrepreneurship promotion. It has NABL-accredited laboratory with the capacity to test fish and fishery products that are exported or imported. It has been recognized as a National Referral Laboratory for Fish and Fishery Products by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. On the human resource development front, the institute offers technical expertise and advice for entrepreneurship development in the areas of food safety, fishing and fish processing. In addition, five research vessels are used for fishing operations on an experimental basis.


Rubber wood canoe: durable, maintenance-free, affordable For the fishing industry, ICARCIFT has been developing craft, gear and fishing methods for the marine and inland sectors, with the emphasis being on resource conservation and sustainability, besides increasing the productivity.


About 80% of the mechanized wooden crafts in the country are based on 12 standard designs in the size range of 7.67-15.2m developed by the institute. It has also been instrumental in introducing steel and FRP as boat building materials by providing suitable designs for fishing canoes and vessels. Design of fuel efficient fishing vessel was also developed. Cheaper alternate materials for boat building for traditional fishermen like rubber wood and coconut wood have also been introduced in Kerala. FRP coracles have been introduced in reservoirs for tribal fishermen in the state. Package of technologies for protection against bio-deterioration, fouling and corrosion have also been developed.


The institute has also standardized netting, netting yarn and netting twine used for fishing. It has also introduced ring seines in Kerala and today, it is the most widely used gear in traditional sector. Large mesh purseseines were also introduced and it has seen 100% adoption in the state. Other gears include species specific gill nets, semi-pelagic trawls and traps.


Solar-powered boat for aquaculture, ecotourism, line fishing


Resource conservation efforts include development of bycatch, juvenile reduction devices, V-form otter boards etc. Specific developments include square mesh cod end (now part of MFRAs of various states), Juvenile Fish and Shrimp Sorting Device (JFSSD), CIFT-Turtle Excluder Device (TED) etc. The institute is working on conservation and popularization of these technologies in partnership with other organizations like NetFish (MPEDA), WWF and other NGOs. It is also partnering INCOIS to identify PFZs to aid fishermen in locating fish schools that help in reducing scouting time and reduced fuel use and in documenting Traditional Knowledge along the Kerala coast. Recent efforts include development of solar boat (under experimental trials in Kerala) and green combination fishing vessel ‘Sagar Harita’ which was also launched in the state.


Retort pouch package of fish curry


In the postharvest sector, the institute is engaged in developing value added products (including ready-to-cook and eat products), by-products (including high-value ones) from fish and shell fish and developing appropriate packaging for the same. Technology is also transferred to stakeholders and interested entrepreneurs, a recent example being products launched and marketed in Kerala by Vinayaka Foods. It has given technical help in establishing and modernizing fish markets.


Chitosan-based hand sanitiser


The institute has also focused on the development of technologies for the production of products of biomedical applications. Chitosan film can be used as a barrier in orthodontic surgery and as artificial skin in treatment of burns/wounds etc and also in plastic surgery. Technology for isolation and purification of squalene with 99.5% purity from shark liver; isolation of chondroitin sulphate, a medicinal product used in the treatment of arthritis patients, from shark bones and shark cartilage; pilot scale production of calcium capsule etc were also carried out. The product has now been successfully commercialised. A succinyl chitosan-based hydro-alcohol hand sanitiser was developed for fish processing industry workers. CIFT solar dryer an eco-friendly fish drier with a multi-channel thermometer (five channels) was also developed for middle level processors. A sophisticated fish tunnel dryer using solar energy, with LPG back up for operations during monsoon season, was developed.


Extension activities


The institute conducts regular skill development programmes for traditional fishermen and women in value addition, improved drying and handling practices. It has also taken initiatives for setting up demonstration units for them in various places through different schemes, a recent one being a clam cluster and processing facility in Perumbalam in Alappuzha, mini-fish processing facility at Kadamakuddy, Vypin and created various facilities in eight north eastern states of India. The institute conducts regular need based training programmes in responsible fishing techniques, fish processing, value added fish based products, quality assurance systems, fisheries microbiology and biochemistry and stakeholder empowerment programmes, particularly targeting women and weaker sections with specific  programmes for backward areas of islands and North east regions of the country. Research Centres in different parts of the country (Vishakpatnam, Veraval and Mumbai) cater to the location specific technological problems faced by the industries. Agri Business Incubation (ABI) unit at ICAR-CIFT supports the prospective entrepreneurs by providing pro-active and value-added business support in terms of technical consultancy, infrastructure facility, experts’ guidance and training to develop technology based business ideas and establish sustainable enterprises in fishery. Since its inception, the institute has been playing a significant role in establishing the seafood processing sector in Kerala by hand holding it during its initial stages of establishment by providing assistance in processing technologies like freezing and addressing its quality issues. The institute has been awarded ‘Sardar Patel Outstanding Institute Award’ of ICAR twice in 2000 and 2006. It continues to provide support by being part of quality inspection teams and assisting in risk assessment and traceability when quality issues arise in our exported products. The institute is providing all technical inputs for developing standards for the FSSAI, as well as the International Standards for fish and fishery products. It provides testing and analytical facilities to the seafood processing sector of the country and also handles the testing of imported fish products. With this backdrop, the 11th IFAF is being organized with an objective to provide a comprehensive outlook for Fisheries and Aquaculture sectors, for achieving greater synergyamong stakeholders and planning strategies for capture fisheries and aqua farming to build higher levels of sustainability and profitability in line with Blue Growth Initiative.

(The author is Director at ICAR-CIFT,Cochin. Views expressed are personal.)