Fishing in India
A fisherman net in Kerala. In some Indian states, these nets are commonly calledChinese fishing nets.
Fishermen of Maharashtra in their boats.
Fishing boats in eastern India
Fishing in India is a major industry in its coastal states, employing over 14 million people.
Fish production in India has increased than tenfold since its independence in 1947. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, fish output in India doubled between 1990 and 2010.
India has 8118 kilometers of marine coastline, 3827 fishing villages, and 1914 traditional fish landing centers. India’s fresh water resources consist of 195,210 kilometers of rivers and canals, 2.9 million hectares of minor and major reservoirs, 2.4 million hectares of ponds and lakes, and about 0.8 million hectares of flood plain wetlands and water bodies. As of 2010, the marine and freshwater resources offered a combined sustainable catch fishing potential of over 4 million metric tonnes of fish. In addition, India’s water and natural resources offer a 10 fold growth potential in aquaculture (farm fishing) from 2010 harvest levels of 3.9 million metric tonnes of fish, if India were to adopt fishing knowledge, regulatory reforms and sustainability policies adopted by China over the last two decades.
The marine fish harvested in India consist of about 65 commercially important species/groups. Pelagic and midwater species contributed about 52% of the total marine fish in 2004.
India is a major supplier of fish in the world. In 2006, the country exported over 600,000 metric tonnes of fish, to some 90 countries, earning over US$1.8 billion. Shrimps are one of the major varieties exported. Giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) is the dominant species cultured followed by Indian white prawn (Penaeus indicus). Shrimp production from coastal aquaculture during 2004 stood at approximately 120,000 tonnes. Farmed shrimp accounted for about 60% of shrimp exported from the country.
Marine and freshwater catch fishing combined with aquaculture fish farming is a rapidly growing industry in India. In 2008, India was the sixth largest producer of marine and freshwater capture fisheries, and the second largest aquaculture farmed fish producer in the world. Fish as food – both from fish farms and catch fisheries – offers India one of the easiest and fastest way to address malnutrition and food security.
Despite rapid growth in total fish production, a fish farmers’ average annual production in India is only 2 metric tonnes per person, compared to 172 tonnes in Norway, 72 tonnes in Chile, and 6 tonnes per fisherman in China. Higher productivity, knowledge transfer for sustainable fishing, continued growth in fish production with increase in fish exports have the potential for increasing the living standards of Indian fishermen.
As of 2010, fish harvest distribution was difficult within India because of poor rural road infrastructure, lack of cold storage and absence of organized retail in most parts of the country.
A fisherman in the backwaters of Kerala.
Fishing and aquaculture in India has a long history. Kautilya’s Arthashastra (321–300 B.C.) and King Someswara’s Manasoltara (1127 A.D.) each refer to fish culture. For centuries, India has had a traditional practice of fish culture in small ponds in eastern India. Significant advances in productivity were made in the state of West Bengal in the early nineteenth century with the controlled breeding of carp in bundhs (tanks or impoundments where river conditions are simulated). Fish culture received notable attention in Tamil Nadu (formerly the state of Madras) as early as 1911, subsequently, states such as West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh initiated fish culture through the establishment of Fisheries Departments. In 2006, Indian central government initiated a dedicated organization focussed on fisheries, under its Ministry of Agriculture.
Brackishwater farming in India is also an age-old system confined mainly to the bheries (manmade impoundments in coastal wetlands) of West Bengal and pokkali (salt resistant deepwater paddy) fields along the Kerala coast. With no additional knowledge and technology input, except that of trapping the naturally bred juvenile fish and shrimp seed, these systems have been sustaining production levels of between 500–750 kg/ha/year with shrimp contributing 20 to 25 percent of the total Indian production.
Fishing boats on Palk Strait in Tamil Nadu
Fish boats of Tamil Nadu
It rose from only 800,000 tons in FY 1950 to 4.1 million tons in the early 1990s. From 1990 through 2010, Indian fish industry growth has accelerated, reaching a total marine and freshwater fish production to about 8 million metric tons. Special efforts have been made to promote extensive and intensive inland fish farming, modernize coastal fisheries, and encourage deep-sea fishing through joint ventures. These efforts led to a than fourfold increase in coastal fish production from 520,000 tons in FY 1950 to 2.4 million tons in FY 1990. The increase in inland fish production was even dramatic, increasing almost eightfold from 218,000 tons in FY 1950 to 1.7 million tons in FY 1990. The value of fish and processed fish exports increased from less than 1 percent of the total value of exports in FY 1960 to 3.6 percent in FY 1993.
Between 1990 to 2007, fish production in India has grown at a higher rate than food grains, milk, eggs and other food items.
Fishing in India contributed over 1 percent of India’s annual gross domestic product in 2008.
Catch fishing in India employs about 14.5 million people. The country’s rich marine and inland water resources, fisheries and aquaculture offer an attractive and promising sector for employment, livelihood and food security. Fish products from India are well received by almost half of world’s countries, creating export driven employment opportunity in India and greater food security for the world. During the past decades the Indian fisheries and aquaculture has witnessed improvements in craft, tackle and farming methods. Creation of required harvest and post-harvest infrastructure has been receiving due attention of the central and state governments. All this has been inducing a steady growth.
To harvest the economic benefits from fishing, India is adopting exclusive economic zone, stretching 200 nautical miles (370 km) into the Indian Ocean, encompasses than 2 million square kilometers. In the mid-1980s, only about 33 percent of that area was being exploited. The potential annual catch from the area has been estimated at 4.5 million tons. In addition to this marine zone, India has about 14,000 km² of brackish water available for aquaculture, of which only 600 km² were being farmed in the early 1990s; about 16,000 km² of freshwater lakes, ponds, and swamps; and nearly 64,000 kilometers of rivers and streams.
In 1990, there were 1.7 million full-time fishermen, 1.3 million part-time fishermen, and 2.3 million occasional fishermen, many of whom worked as saltmakers, ferrymen, or seamen, or operated boats for hire. In the early 1990s, the fishing fleet consisted of 180,000 traditional craft powered by sails or oars, 26,000 motorized traditional craft, and some 34,000 mechanized boats.
Carp – a commonly farmed fish in India
India laid the foundation for scientific carp farming in the country between 1970 and 1980, by demonstrating high production levels of 8 to 10 tonnes/hectare/year in an incubation center. The late 1980s saw the dawn of aquaculture in India and transformed fish culture into a modern enterprise. With economic liberalization of early 1990s, fishing industry got a major investment boost.
India’s breeding and culture technologies include primarily different species of carp; other species such as catfish, murrels and prawns are recent additions.
The culture systems adopted in the country vary greatly depending on the input available in any particular region as well as on the investment capabilities of the farmer. While extensive aquaculture is carried out in comparatively large water bodies with stocking of the fish seed as the only input beyond utilising natural productivity, elements of fertilisation and feeding have been introduced into semi-intensive culture. The different culture systems in Indian practice include:
- Intensive pond culture with supplementary feeding and aeration (10–15 tonnes/ha/yr)
- Composite carp culture (4–6 tonnes/ha/yr)
- Weed-based carp polyculture (3–4 tonnes/ha/yr)
- Integrated fish farming with poultry, pigs, ducks, horticulture, etc. (3–5 tonnes/ha/yr)
- Pen culture (3–5 tonnes/ha/yr)
- Cage culture (10–15 kg/m²/yr)
- Running-water fish culture (20–50 kg/m²/yr)
Aquaculture resources in India include 2.36 million hectares of ponds and tanks, 1.07 million hectares of beels, jheels and derelict waters plus in addition 0.12 million kilometers of canals, 3.15 million hectares of reservoirs and 0.72 million hectares of upland lakes that could be utilised for aquaculture purposes. Ponds and tanks are the prime resources for freshwater aquaculture in India. However, less than 10 percent of India’s natural potential is used for aquaculture currently.
The FAO of the United Nations estimates that about 1.2 million hectares of potential brackishwater area available in India is suitable for farming, in addition to this, around 8.5 million hectares of salt affected areas are also available, of which about 2.6 million hectares could be exclusively utilised for aquaculture due to the unsuitability of these resources for other agriculture based activities. However, just like India’s fresh water resources, the total brackishwater area under cultivation is only just over 13 percent of the potential water area available. India offers opportunities for highly productive farming of shrimp in its brackishwater resources.
Carp hatcheries in both the public and private sectors have contributed towards the increase in seed production from 6321 million fry in 1985–1986 to over 18500 million fry in 2007. There are 35 freshwater prawn hatcheries in the coastal states producing over 200 million seed per annum. Further, the 237 shrimp hatcheries with a production capacity of approximately 11.425 billion post larvae per year are meeting the seed requirement of the brackish water shrimp farming sector.
Freshwater aquaculture activity is prominent in the eastern part of the country, particularly the states of West Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh with new areas coming under culture in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Assam and Tripura. Brackishwater aquaculture is mainly concentrated on the coasts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and West Bengal. With regards to the market, while the main areas of consumption for freshwater fish are in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and north-eastern India, cultured brackishwater shrimps supply India’s fish export industry.
Rajiv Gandhi Center for Aquaculture(RGCA)
Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture is the Research & Development arm of the Marine Products Export Development Authority. MPEDA, inspired by the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s vision of making India a technologically advanced nation, evolved this Centre of Excellence in Aquaculture and dedicated it to the development of the Indian Aquaculture Industry. RGCA is actively involved in the development of various Sustainable Aquaculture Technologies that are bio secure, eco friendly, traceable and with low carbon outputs, for seed production and grow out farming of various aquatic species, those having export potential in particular. RGCA is also developing a state-of-the-art technology transfer and training centre for disseminating the technologies developed at the various projects established at different locations in the country to the aquaculture industry in India.
Distribution of fish industry in Indian states
A fisherman in Kerala
Fishing is a diverse industry in India. The table below presents the top ten fish harvesting states in India, for the 2007-2008 agriculture year.
|Rank||State||Total production (metric tonnes)|
Between 2000 and 2010, the freshwater prawn farming in India has grown rapidly. The state of Andhra Pradesh dominates the sector with over 86 percent of the total production in India with approximately 60 percent of the total water area dedicated to prawn farming, followed by West Bengal. Mixed farming of freshwater prawn along with carp is also very much accepted as a technologically sound culture practice and a viable option for enhancing farm income. Thirty five freshwater prawn hatcheries, at present producing about 200 million seed per annum, cater for the requirements of the country.
Law and regulations
India has a federal structure of government. According to India’s constitution, the power of enacting laws is split between India’s central government and the Indian states. The state legislatures of India have the power to make laws and regulations with respect to a number of subject-matters, including water (i.e. water supplies, irrigation and canals, drainage and embankments, water storage and water power), land (i.e. rights in or over land, land tenure, transfer and alienation of agricultural land), fisheries, as well as the preservation, protection and improvement of stock and the prevention of animal disease. There are many laws and regulations that may be relevant to fisheries and aquaculture adopted at state level.
At the central level, several key laws and regulations are relevant to fisheries and aquaculture. These include the British era Indian Fisheries Act (1897), which penalizes the killing of fish by poisoning water and by using explosives; the Environment (Protection) Act (1986), being an umbrella act containing provisions for all environment related issues affecting fisheries and aquaculture industry in India. India also has enacted the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act (1974) and the Wild Life Protection Act (1972). All these legislations must be read in conjunction with one another, and with the local laws of a specific state, to gain a full picture of the law and regulations that are applicable to fisheries and aquaculture in India.
Research and training
Fisheries research and training institutions are supported by central and state governments that deserve much of the credit for the expansion and improvements in the Indian fishing industry. The principal fisheries research institutions, all of which operate under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, are the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute at Kochi (formerly Cochin),Kerala; the Central Inland Fisheries Institute at Barrackpore, West Bengal; and the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology at Willingdon Island near Kochi. Most fishery training is provided by the Central Institute for Fishery Education in Mumbai, which has ancillary institutions in Barrackpore, Agra (Uttar Pradesh), and Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh). The Central Fisheries Corporation inCalcutta is instrumental in bringing about improvements in fishing methods, ice production, processing, storing, marketing, and constructing and repairing fishing vessels. Operating under a 1972 law, the Marine Products Export Development Authority(MPEDA), headquartered in Kochi, has made several market surveys abroad and has been instrumental in introducing and enforcing hygiene standards that have gained for Indian fishery export products a reputation for cleanliness and quality.
Fishermen in Andhra Pradesh
Kochi, a fishing center in Kerala
The Government of India launched National Fisheries Development Board in 2006. Its headquarters are in Hyderabad, located in a fish shaped building. Its activity focus areas are:
- Intensive Aquaculture in Ponds and Tanks
- Fisheries Development in Reservoirs.
- Coastal Aquaculture
- Seaweed Cultivation
- Infrastructure: Fishing Harbours and Landing Centres
- Fish Dressing Centres and Solar Drying of Fish
- Domestic Marketing
- Technology Upgradation
- Deep Sea Fishing and Tuna Processing
The implementation of two programs for inland fisheries—establishing fish farmers’ development agencies and the National Programme of Fish Seed Development—has led to encouragingly increased production, which reached 1.5 million tons during FY 1990, up from 0.9 million tons in FY 1984. A network of 313 fish farmers’ development agencies was functioning in 1992. Under the National Programme of Fish Seed Development, forty fish-seed hatcheries were commissioned. Fish-seed production doubled from 5 billion fry in FY 1983 to 10 billion fry in FY 1989. A new program using organic waste for aquaculture was started in FY 1986. Inland fish production as a percent of total fish production increased from 36 percent in FY 1980 to 40 percent by FY 1990.
A fishing dock in Maharashtra
Apart from four main fishing harbours–Mangalore (Karnataka), Kochi (Kerala), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), and Roychowkin Kolkata (West Bengal)–twenty-three minor fishing harbors and ninety-five fish-landing centers are designated to provide landing and berthing facilities to fishing craft. The harbors at Vishakhapatnam, Kochi, and Roychowk were completed by 1980; the one at Madras was completed in the 1980s. A major fishing harbor was under construction at Sassoon Dock in Mumbai in the early 1990s, as were thirteen additional minor fishing harbors and eighteen small landing centers. By early 1990, there were 225 deep-sea fishing vessels operating in India’s exclusive economic zone. Of these, 165 were owned by Indian shipping companies, and the rest were chartered foreign fishing vessels.
The government provides subsidies to poor fishermen so that they can motorize their traditional craft to increase the range and frequency of operation, with a consequent increase in the catch and earnings. A total of about 26,171 traditional craft had been motorized under the program by 1992.
The banning of trawling by chartered foreign vessels and the speedy motorization of traditional fishing craft in the 1980s led to a quantum jump in marine fish production in the late 1980s. The export of marine products rose from 97,179 tons (Rs531 billion) in FY 1987 to 210,800 tons (Rs17.4 trillion) in FY 1992, making India one of the world’s leading seafood exporting nations. This achievement was largely a result of significant advancements in India’s freezing facilities since the 1960s, advancements that enabled India’s seafood products to meet international standards. Frozen shrimp, a high-value item, has become the dominant seafood export. Other significant export items are frozen frog legs, frozen lobster tails, dried fish, and shark fins, much of which is exported to seafood-loving Japan. During the eighth plan, marine products were identified as having major export potential.
There are several specialized institutes that train fishermen. The Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training in Juhu instructs operators of deep-sea fishing vessels and technicians for shore establishments. It has facilities in Madras and Vishakhapatnam for about 500 trainees a year. An Institute named “Fisheries Institute of Technology and Training” (FITT) was established with the participation of TATAs in Tamil Nadu, to improve the socio- economic condition of fishers. The Integrated Fisheries Project, also headquartered in Kochi, was established for the processing, popularizing, and marketing of unusual fish. Another training organization, the Central Institute of Coastal Engineering for Fisheries in Bangalore, has done techno-economic feasibility studies on locations of fishing harbor sites and brackish-water fish farms. At present there are 19 Fisheries colleges and one fisheries university (CIFE: Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai)functioning in various states of the country,providing Professional Fisheries education with a view of developing Professionalism in the field of Fisheries. Among the fisheries colleges, Fisheries college and Research Institute located in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu is the popular college because of the maximum number of intake of MFSc and PhD candidates every year. Other colleges like College Of Fisheries,Panangad,College Of Fisheries,Mangalore etc.are also working well for the professionalism.
To improve returns to fishermen and provide better products for consumers, several states have organized marketing cooperatives for fishermen. Nevertheless, most traditional fishermen rely on household members or local fish merchants for the disposal of their catches. In some places, marketing is carried on entirely by fisherwomen who carry small quantities in containers on their heads to nearby places. Good wholesale or retail markets are rare.