Fisheries Important for Competitive exam


India has vast potential for fisheries from both inland and marine resources. It has a large marine product and processing potential with varied fish resources along the 8041-km long coastline, 28000 km of rivers and millions of hectares of reservoirs & brackish water. Units mostly exist in the smallscale sector as proprietary/partnership firms or fishermen cooperatives. Over the last decade, the organized corporate sector has become increasingly involved in preservation, processing and export of coastal fish. The wide variety of fish resources found in Indian inland waters, coastal areas and deep seas comprising India’s Exclusive Economic Zone has a large potential of growth.

Major products:

Frozen & canned products mainly in fresh form. Fisheries play an important role in the national economy, providing full-time or part time employment to 5.96 million people. The contribution of fisheries to GDP at the current price level is 1.3%. There are 10 363 registered fisheries societies in India, with a membership of 1122 000 people. It is also a major contributor to foreign exchange earnings. During 1997-98, the estimated foreign exchange earning was about Rs 4486 Cr which is increasing at an average annual rate of 17.3 %. The country exports annually around 390738 ton of processed sea foods with an export value of Rs 5124.6 Cr. The size of the market is Rs 26000 Cr (as of 1999- 2000).

There is growing export of canned and processed fish from India. The marine fish includes prawns, shrimps, tuna, cuttlefish, squids, octopus, red snappers, ribbon fish, mackerel, lobsters, cat fish etc. In the last six years there was substantial investment in fisheries to the tune of Rs. 30, 000 million of which foreign investments were of the order of Rs. 7000 million. The potential could be gauged by the fact that against fish production potential in the Exclusive Economic Zone of 3.9 million tonnes, actual catch is to the tune of 2.87 million tonnes. Harvesting from island sources is around 2.7 million tonnes.

World Scenario

Total world fish production in 2000 was estimated at a record 129.42 million times (as compared to 124.4 m tonne in 1999). The decline in 1998 was due to the “El Nino” phenomenon which affected catches of small pelages fishes in South America (Peru & adjoining coastal lines). China is now by far the top producer of fish with 30 million tonnes in 1999

The world import of fish product expanded in 1999 in value terms to reach US $ 57,600 million. Out of this, developed countries accounted for more than 80% of the total. Japan is the biggest importer accounting for over 25% of the global total. The EC is depending on over 35% of the share for its fish imports. Thailand and Norway are the world’s major exporters of fish products in value terms accounting for 16% each of total world trade. US, besides being the world’s fourth major exporting country is the second biggest importer of fish products. The net earnings of foreign exchange by developing countries – (deducting their imports for the total value of their exports) is impressive. The net earnings rose from US $ 5200 million in 1985 to US $ 15600 million in ’99. For most of the developing countries, fish trade is a significant contribution in foreign currency earnings.

Current status

The world market was characterised by an overall growth is demand while supplies tightened, (India needs to take advantage of this situation), EU, US showed an increase in demand while Japan showed a decline in demand. This would invariably shoot up the prices of fisheries products.

Review by commodity

World’s most important fish accounting for over 20% of international trade (in value terms)

1. Tuna (Asia)

2. Ground fish

3. Cephalopod (Japan, Korea are leaders

4. Indian Scenario

Marine fisheries

India’s estimated marine resources potential is 3.9 million tonne. During 1998, the marine fish catch was 2.95 million tonne, with over 70% coming from the west coast. There were 220 903 traditional craft, 39444 traditional motorized craft and 51 744 mechanized boats operating in Indian waters. There are nearly 6 million fishermen in the country, of which 2.4 million are full-time, 1.45 million part time and the rest occasional. They use a wide range of fishing gear, including seines, stake nets, lines, bag nets, encircling nets and lift nets.

During 1987-97, there was a gradual increase in fish production, growing 44.1% in the ten-year period, of which pelagic species contributed 51.6%, the rest being demersal species. Among the species caught, Indian oil sardine (Sardinella longiceps), Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta) and Sciaenidae are dominant. Bombay duck, anchovies, cephalopods, perches and Carangidae are also abundantly seen. Marine shrimp, although contributing only 10% of the total catch, is still commercially a most important one. Indian Fisheries often fluctuate, and depend largely on the vagaries of the monsoons. Conservation measures have been adopted in both the east and west coasts by enforcing closed seasons during the breeding seasons of important species.

There have been significant inputs to marine fisheries development in recent years. Plans have been approved for 6 major and 45 minor fishery harbours and 158 modern Fish Landing Centres (FLCs), of which the 6 major harbours have been completed, together with 30 minor fishing harbours and 130 FLCs. In order to improve the marketing of fresh fish internally, a number of cold storage, ice plants and cold chains have also been established. Export trade is completely in the hands of the private sector.

Inland fisheries

During the period 1987-1997, there was a steady increase in inland fisheries production, registering 45.4% during the ten-year period. Inland production, including farming, is now catching up with production from the marine sector and is likely to overtake marine capture fisheries in the next millennium. Inland production includes catches from rivers, upland lakes, peninsular tanks, reservoirs and oxbow lakes. The major states contributing are

  • West Bengal (33%),
  • Andhra Pradesh (9.09%),
  • Bihar (8.71%),
  • Assam (6.92%)
  • Uttar Pradesh (6.49%),
  • Orissa (6.01%),
  • Tamil Nadu (4.82%),
  • Madhya Pradesh (4.07%),
  • Karnataka (3.89%) and
  • Maharashtra (3.4%).

Freshwater aquaculture

Inland aquaculture has emerged as a major fish producing system in India, with production currently (1998) around 1.7 million t/yr. Carp accounts for over 80% of farmed fish. Major species cultured are roho (Labeo rohita), catla (Catla catla), mrigal carp (Cirrhinus mrigala), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), silver carp (Hypothalmitchthys molitrix), catfish (Clariusmbatrachus), singi (Heteropneustes fossilis), rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss), and giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii).

Brackish-water aquaculture

The estimated area of brackish water available for aquaculture is 1.19 million ha. Traditional shrimp farming practices are popular in Kerala, West Bengal and Goa. The yields from this system vary from 300 to 1 000 kg/ha/year. Intensive shrimp farming has become very common in recent years. Because of its high commercial value, giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) is the dominant species in commercial production, although Indian white prawn (Penaeus indicus; around 5% of total production) is also farmed in several places. Shrimp production by farming reached a record value in 1994-95. Subsequently production suffered a set back due to a ban imposed by the Supreme Court of India in response to petition filed by environmentalists pleading that shrimp farming had created several environmental damages. Subsequently, in the last three years many shrimp farms in coastal areas have been closed. Intensive shrimp farming is banned, and only modified, improved traditional and extensive farming are permitted, with a productivity of around 2 to 2.5 t/ha/yr. Aquaculture, particularly shrimp farming, is now regulated and controlled by the Aquaculture Authority of India.

Utilisation of Catches

Nearly 70% of the fish catch is marketed fresh. The fish drying and curing industry in India is on the decline, with only about 14% fish being used for curing. Frozen fish production accounts for 6.5%, 8.4% goes for reduction to fish meal, 0.8% for offal reduction and 1.6% for miscellaneous purposes. The fish

canning industry has also declined recently, in part due to the high cost of metal cans. Only 0.3% of the total catch is used for canning purposes.


Fisheries research in India is coordinated by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agricultural Universities, and institutes under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Future needs

India’s future fisheries development plans are aimed at increasing fish production, improving the welfare of fishers, promoting exports and providing food security. The per capita availability and consumption of fish is to be increased to a level of 11 kg per annum for the fish eating population and production has to be increased proportionately. Aquaculture is recognized as an important way to meet future demands. A number of schemes have been instituted by state and central sectors to increase brackish-water aquaculture and fish production from tanks and ponds, lakes, reservoirs and rivers. The private sector has emerged as a major player in brackish-water aquaculture, particularly in shrimp farming.

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