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Indian Fisheries: The Sunrise Sector

 By Dr L Murugan

As India confidently marches ahead  under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to become the third largest world economy , the fisheries sector has surged forward to take up the  mantle in this journey. Thanks to   Prime Minister’s ‘ Sewa, Sushasan and Gareeb Kalyan’ , the Indian fisheries in last nine years has emerged as a sunrise sector , firmly launching the country on the path of becoming a leading Blue Economy.

India ,blessed with more than 8000km of sea shores, vast Exclusive Economic Zone , some of the biggest rivers and reservoirs , and importantly , hardworking human capital has always possessed the immense potential for fisheries development.  But, perhaps the neglect, apathy and policy paralysis of previous regimes never allowed to realise it fully. Many reports indicate that, since independence upto  2014, the Central government could release a  paltry sum of less than Rs 4000 Crore  for fisheries development.

A fisherman, eulogised as the King of Ocean in many songs and tales, in reality struggled everyday to earn his livelihood. The legendary Tamil actor M G Ramchandran(MGR) in his movie ‘Padagotti’, sensitively captured this plight of the fishermen. The  heart-wrenching depiction of  the agony and struggles of fishermen , their exploitation and helplessness accentuated by the insensitive system made an indelible mark on the viewers.

It was the  Prime Minister Narendra Modi  who understood the  immense potential of the Blue Economy for our fisher communities and decided to initiate systemic development of this sector. Under his leadership, the Central Government initiated a series of reforms through the Blue Revolution Scheme (2015-Rs5000Cr) and the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (2017-Rs7522Cr). These schemes  unleashed a series of activities in Indian Fisheries, creating ground level infrastructure, and touched the lives of 2.8 Crore fishermen. As the Indian fisheries started moving forward, Prime Minister Modi , in 2019, carved out a  new Fisheries Ministry  for its focussed development .

While Indian Fisheries  was preparing for  a big leap, suddenly the world came to  a halt due to Covid-19 global pandemic. But , the leadership turned this crisis into  an opportunity , and  announced the  Atmanirbhar Bharat package for the Fisheries sector, bringing in a Rs 20050 Crore Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) in September 2020 , committing the biggest ever investment in the history of Indian Fisheries.

Thanks to this fresh chunk of investment and focussed attention, the   PMMSY began to  address the critical gaps in the fisheries value chain from fish production, productivity and quality to technology , post harvest infrastructure and marketing.It has identified key strategic priority areas: Marine Fisheries, Inland Fisheries,Fishermen’s welfare, Infrastructure and post-harvest management, cold water fisheries, ornamental fisheries, aquatic health management, sea weed cultivation among others.

The sustained efforts by the Central government involving the central/state    government agencies and fishermen over last nine years,  has dramatically altered the state of Indian fisheries.  Core infrastructure like more than 107 Fishing harbours and Fish Landing centres which are essential for  safe landing, berthing and loading-unloading are constructed/modernised. Modernisation of major fishing harbours at Cochin, Chennai, Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam and Paradeep has been activated

The income of fishermen is directly linked to the Post harvest  management of the crops i.e. how the fish is stored, preserved ,transported and sold.  With  approvals given to more than 25000 fish transportation facilities , 6700 fish kiosks/ markets, and 560 cold storages, this fisheries infrastructure at grass root level is increasingly strengthened.

The fishermen face risks and hazardous working conditions in open seas. To mitigate these risks, approvals have been accorded for upgradation of  1043 existing fishing vessels, replacement of 6468 boats and 461 deep sea fishing vessels and for  installation of 1 lakh transponders on marine fishing vessels , using satellite based communication.

The PMMSY  pulled out inland fisheries from traditional waters , and  infused  technology , inspiring many talented and enterprising youth to venture into fisheries.Today,   young woman entrepreneurs from Kashmir valley are efficiently rearing cold water rainbow trouts using Recirculatory Aquaculture System. The Nellore aquapreneurs have become successful  exporters, thanks to the biofloc cultivated shrimps.

The PMMSY has helped to expand the Fisheries to non-traditional areas .  Almost 20000hectares of fresh pond area is being brought under inland aquaculture, and even landlocked Haryana and Rajasthan  farmers are successfully converting their saline waste lands into wealth lands through aquaculture.

The PMMSY has empowered the fisher women  to explore   remunerative options and alternative livelihood, like Ornamental fisheries, pearl culture and seaweed cultivation . A recently launched Rs 127 Crore Seaweed Park in Ramanathapuram District of Tamil Nadu is a truly pioneering step by the Modi Government.

Seed, Feed and Breed are important components of the fisheries sector. The PMMSY has enabled 900 Fish feed plants, 755 hatcheries , and  is supporting research and genetic  improvement of Indian White Shrimp at Chennai, development of specific pathogen free brood stock and domestication of tiger shrimp at Andamans.

The welfare of fishermen and fishery entrepreneurs, and betterment of their lives  are central to the  Blue Economy objectives. Many measures like nutritional support to fishermen in lean and ban period, development of integrated coastal villages , hundreds of young Sagar Mitras for assisting fishermen ,  Group Accidental Insurance scheme , institutional financial support through Kisan Credit Cards are complementing to the comprehensive development of Indian Fisheries.

The Modi Government’s partnership with Indian fishermen has empowered them , giving them  confidence and a sense of pride. The Fishermen across the country were invited to Independence Day Celebrations at Lal Quila, Delhi. This partnership is continuously bolstered by a direct interaction  of the Fisheries Minister Shri Parshottam Rupala with India’s fishermen, through a unique initiative of Sagar Parikrama- a 8000km journey by sea and coastal route to visit fishermen villages, meet and interact with fishermen, and  witness the implementation of policies and projects on ground . Recently when the dark clouds of uncertainy hovered over the coastal aquaculture,the sensitive Modi government  acted swiftly and brought the Coastal Aquaculture Amendment Act 2023, addressing the concerns of  lakhs of people involved in the coastal aquaculture activities.

This September, as we celebrate  the third anniversary of the PMMSY, one can see the changed outlook of Indian fisheries .  India is counted among top three fish  and aquaculture production countries, and the biggest shrimp exporter in the world today. The government has recently announced investment of Rs 6000Crores as a sub scheme under PMMSY, taking total investment for fisheries to more than Rs38500Crores in last nine years.

Today , Indian Fisheries production  (174 lakh tonne provisional figures 2022-23) and export earnings are   at all time high. The cumulative fish production of last nine years since 2014 , is  way ahead of the fish production of  preceding thirty years (1984-2014). The shrimp  production increased by 267% from 3.22 lakh tonnes in 2013-14 to 11.84 lakh tonnes in 2022-23. India’s sea food exports doubled  from Rs 30213 Cr in 2013-14 to Rs 63969 Cr in 2022-23.

The Fishery ecosystem developed over last nine years is maturing fast, showing spectacular results, bringing the  wealth to our fisher communities.  As the developmental  partnership between    fishermen and  Government  getting stronger  to harness the potential of the Blue Economy , I wish the late MGR was alive today. He would have definitely been happy to see how Prime Minister Modi , with his sincere efforts and clear vision, has been ably addressing the concerns of fishermen depicted  in the movie ‘Padagotti’, and supporting them on the path of development  through the mantra of ‘ Sabka Sath,  Sabka Vikas,  Sabka Vishwas and  Sabka Prayas’.

The author is  Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal. Husbandry and Dairying, and Information and Broardcasting, Government of India






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