Pakistani fisherman fight the mighty Chinese for food in country’s deep-sea fishing waters

While a new fishing policy is expected, local fisherman fear they will be left with no food as 12 Chinese deep-sea trawlers docked at the port of Karachi last month. Pakistani fishermen fear government’s plan to allow Chinese companies to carry out deep-sea fishing in territorial waters could threaten survival of at least three million people who depend on the sea for livelihood.

Local fishermen say commercial fishing vessels and bottom-trawling would deplete fish stocks in the exclusive federal sea zones off the Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

Bottom trawling – dragging nets across the sea floor to scoop up fish – stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.

But last week, the federal minister for maritime affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, said the country’s new deep-sea fishing policy would not allow Chinese trawlers to engage in unregulated deep-sea fishing. Bottom trawling, he said, would be banned under the new policy.

“Importing boats is not illegal,” he said. “How you use them has to be regulated.”

The Fishermen’s Cooperative Society (FCS), which issued the permit to the Chinese trawlers, said the Chinese fishing vessels would not use the destructive bottom trawling method and instead help ‘upgrade’ Pakistan’s fishing industry and export.

Abdul Berr, Chairman of the Fishermen’s Cooperative Society, says that
around 3,500 fishermen will get employment opportunities with the arrival of the world’s latest fishing boats and modern small boats.

He added: “First, 70 percent of the staff at trawlers and processing facilities will be local. There will be no fishing in provincial territorial waters. The trawlers will bring all their catch to Karachi where it will be processed in factories and then exported.”

Small local fishermen would receive modern fiber boats on ‘easy instalments,’ Berr said, a step towards replacing their obsolete boats.

Fishermen remove fish from a net at the Clifton beach in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi on October 6, 2020. (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP)

But Sindh’s minister for livestock and fisheries, Abdul Bari Pitafi, said the mega fishing ships would wipe out sea-life, even if they were only operating in the federal government’s zone-3.

“One trawler does a catch that is equal to a catch by 100 of our fishing boats,” Younus Khaskheli, a fisherman, said.

“And their fishing net is the most dangerous one, because it hunts thousands of tons of fish.”

“Our sea stock will end; the country will lose the income of billions and our fishermen will become jobless,” Khaskheli said. “There won’t be any food left in the sea.”

Source: Arab News PK