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Pakistan Seafood / Fishery Industries


Mar 21, 2007
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Pakistan’s seafood industry

WITH a coastline of about 1 120 kilometer and inland water bodies’ cumulative area of 8 million hectares, Pakistan’s Fishery and Fishing Industry plays a significant part in the national economy. Pakistani seafood has a significant export potential, estimated at 1 million tonnes/ year from the marine subsector alone. The commercially important resources include near 250 demersal fish species, 50 small pelagic fish species, 15 medium-sized pelagic species and 20 large pelagic fish species. In addition, there are also 15 commercial species of shrimp, 12 of cephalopods and 5 of lobster. Pakistan has two fishing seasons: the August to November season for catching shrimp, and October to June season for catching Fish. Marine fisheries account for about 60 percent of the total production, including both fish and shrimps. Shrimps account for only 15percent of the production, but they are of much significance mainly due to their value and demand in foreign markets.

During the Fiscal Year 2015-2016, Pakistan exported sea food worth US $325 million. In 1st half of FY 16- 17 (July- Dec 2016), fish exports and preparations have fetched $183.5 million, which shows an increase of more than 10 % as compared to the same period of FY15-16 (US$ 166 million). Exports of seafood are picking up now after falling for last two years. With the facility for exporting frozen seafood to China via land route to be in place from April 2017, coupled with quality certification, the growth trend is expected to continue.

The Government of Pakistan is giving serious attention to its cold storage facilities and phytosanitary standards to increase export of fisheries products. There are 37 fish processing plants in Pakistan with the capacity to process 586 tonnes of fish and shrimp daily. Out of these, 27 plants are involved in production of frozen products, two in canning, and eight for fishmeal processing.

Pakistani Fish and fishery products are processed and exported to over 50 countries. China has, in fact, emerged as the single biggest market for Pakistani shrimp, oyster, lobster and crab, and the second largest market for fish, with the combined market of six GCC countries on the top.

The Chinese market is set to expand. In a trial operation in January 2017, about 7.5 million tonnes of different varieties of fish and shrimp were exported from Gwadar to China’s Guangdong province via land route of Khunjerab. This is going to become a regular affair from April 2017.

Exporters expect Pakistan to boost seafood exports to $1bn in three to five years by constantly augmenting production through effective implementation of ban on hauling of juvenile fish from designated breeding areas, promotion of modern inland fishing methods and incentivization of fish farming across the country.

Marine varieties

The shrimp variety includes the species of Penaeus indicus and Penaeus monodon among 12 other. Surveys in the Arabian Sea indicate that commercial species of crustaceans like shrimps and lobsters are overexploited. Crabs, cephalopods and other molluscs are an unconventional resource. However, there is a potential in the export market as a substitute for these.

Demersal fish resources show the signs of being exploited, hence only limited expansion of catch is possible in future. There may be a possibility of expanding the catch the small pelagic fish resources by venturing further offshore. It is very much likely that the fishermen would have to consider using new fishing methods in order to achieve this. As for the larger variety of pelagic fish, especially Skipjack tuna and its relatives, are available in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Pakistan in the Karachi District. Fishing for these usually result in by-catches of marlin and shark species. Local fishing fleet commonly harvests the species of Frigate mackerel, Indian mackerel, Spanish mackerel, barracuda and dolphinfish. The production figures of 2006 showed overexploitation relative to maximum sustainable yield level.

A large variety of mesopelagic fish exist just off the continental shelf and are barely exploited. These resources are prime candidates for conversion to fishmeal for use in poultry and aquaculture but no commercial use is available in the country. Mussels, oysters, clams, seaweed, kelp, sea urchins and other marine resources also exist in Pakistan but further research data is required in order to evaluate the feasibility of propagating the mariculture of these varieties.


Marine subsector

Pakistan has a continental shelf area of 50,270 km2 and coastline length of 1,120 km. The total maritime zone of Pakistan is over 30 percent of the land area. The coastal belt is characterized by a meshwork of estuaries and creeks with mangrove forestry that serve as nursery grounds for species of finfish and shellfish. In 1958, the first modern fish harbour was constructed at the Karachi District. Later, the fleet expanded and is now mostly mechanized.


A docked fishing vessel at Karachi Fish Harbour


Karachi Fish Harbour is the biggest and oldest of its kind in Pakistan, being used by all types of fishing boats. Currently more than 4,000 fishing craft are based in it. At present, it can be assumed that the harbour caters for the needs of near 75 percent of the local fleet.

The major fish harbours of Pakistan are:

Karachi Fish Harbour handles about 90% of fish and seafood catch in Pakistan and 95% of fish and seafood exports from Pakistan.

Karachi Fisheries Harbour is being operated by Provincial Government of Sindh.

Korangi Fish Harbour is being managed by Federal Ministry of Ports & Shipping.

Pasni Fish Harbour being operated by Provincial Government of Balochistan.

Gwadar Fish Harbour being operated by Federal Ministry of Communication.


Shrimp fishery

The shrimp fishery is very meaningful because of foreign exchange earned and employment produced from it. It is only permitted in province of Sindh. Commercial shrimp trawling started in 1958, after the MFD introduced mechanization of larger fishing vessels. Now almost all of the shrimp trawlers are equipped with winches for net hauling. However, shrimp can also be caught by the use of cast net, which is locally termed 'thukri'. The catching is mainly carried out in shallow depths from October to March. It is also caught in eustaries and brackish waters from July to September. The catch is then processed frozen for the objective of exporting to North American and European Union markets.

Tuna fishery

The fishing of tuna varieties is another appreciable aspect of the industry that is carried out by artisanal fishing vessels. Usually, the fleet shoot the gillnets in the evening and fetch them the next morning. The main target are the pelagic species with higher commercial values. The catch is exported as chilled to neighbouring country of Iran through informal channels for canning purposes. This fetches more profit than if exported to Sri Lanka in dried and salted form.

Benthic fishery

The deep sea resources remain comparatively unexploited because local vessels are neither suitable nor equipped for deep-water fishery. The idea has motivated entrepreneurs to augment their deep-sea fishing craft for use of the resources. Small-scale benthic or demersal fishery is most common in coastal inshore waters. Fishermen use nylon gillnet, locally termed 'ruch', with a mesh of about 150 mm long. Benthic varieties include the marine jewfish, croakers, grunters, snappers, groupers, ribbonfish and pomfrets.

Pelagic fishery

A small-scale pelagic fishery is in operation in Sindh, using special nets, locally termed 'katra'. Fishing is carried out from 'hora' boats - wooden sailboats with pointed ends, a broad breadth and long-shaft outboard engine. In depths shallower than 20 m, shoals of clupeids, especially the Indian Oil Sardine, are usually intended. Such operations are mainly based at Ibrahim Hydri and Chashma Goth villages. The desirable months are from October to November and February to April. The catch is the prime candidate for conversion into fishmeal.


As of 2000, the number of docked fishery vessels was near 6,000. The two main types of fishing craft include:

Mechanized docked boats:

There are over 4,000 boats of this kind registered, which constitute shrimp trawlers and as well as gillnetters. Both are also locally made of wood, according to traditional design and fitted with 80–220 hp diesel engines. The average length of a trawler is 10–25 m while that of a gillnetter is 15–35 m. For hauling, many trawlers have a transom stern. Gillnetters are pointed at both ends and the net is pulled over the side. Freezing vessels also operate in the EEZ and all their catch is exported.

Mechanized sailboats:

Made of wood and equipped with two or more outboard engines, but generally smaller than docked vessels, they are locally called 'hora' boats. Most of these sailboats now operate in freshwater bodies. 'Doonda' boats are custom-built fiberglass scrapped lifeboats, with an average length of 7–10 m and 22–33 hp engines. These boats are able to function in up to 20 m depth. As of 2006, there are over 2,000 active boats of this kind.
Seafood exports increase by 1.85% in FY21

Fri, 23 Jul 2021,


ISLAMABAD, Jul 23 (APP):The exports of fish and fish preparations increased by 1.85 per cent during the fiscal year 2020-21 as compared to the corresponding period of last year.

The seafood exports during July-June (2020-21) were recorded at $414.193 million against the exports of $406.654 million in July-June (2019-20), showing growth of around 1.85 per cent, according to Pakistan Bureau of statistics (PBS).

In terms of quantity, Pakistan exported 184.396 metric tons seafood during the period under review against the exports of 177.884 metric tons last year, showing an increase of 3.66 per cent.
On year-on-year basis, the fish exports from the country decreased by 7.04 per cent by going down from $33.272 million during June 2020 to $30.929 million in June 2021.

On month-on-month basis, the seafood exports decreased by 1.08 per cent in June 2021 when compared to the exports of $31.267 million in May 2020, the PBS data revealed.

The overall food exports from the country decreased by 41.83 per cent during the fiscal year 2020-21 compared to last year. The food exports from the country were recorded at $433.538 million during July-June (2020-21) against the exports of $305.664 million during July-June (2019-20).
Here Is Why Pakistan Should Invest More In Aquaculture Fish Farming

Kiran Mahnaz
October 2, 2020

Aquaculture is a kind of fish farming that includes the full cycle of marine life production. In this business, the fish farmers would cultivate and harvest both aquatic animals and aquatic plants for human consumption. Since governments all over the world have started noticing that wildlife marine stock has started to decline due to overfishing, they are encouraging a shift from wildlife fishing to aquaculture. Aquaculture, or fish farming in marine environment, is considered a sustainable option to save marine life as well as to generate revenue.

This form of fish farming can serve as a good and sustainable source of income for low-skilled labour force. Pakistan, like the other south Asian countries, has both seaports and rivers that provide a suitable environment for aquaculture. In 2016, the combined yield of captured wild fisheries for Pakistan, India and Bangladesh was reported at 7.2 million metric tonnes, compared with a figure of 8.06 metric tonnes for aquaculture produce. Unfortunately, however, Pakistan’s contribution in this only stood at 4.36 percent. On the whole, also, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have a minimal contribution for the fisheries industries, if we compare the data with China and Far East Asian countries. In 2016, China reported a total fishery production of 81.5 million metric tons.

Pakistan is blessed with the largest irrigation system in the world, which can be utilised to build ponds and lakes for fish farming easily. Pakistan has rivers in Sindh and Punjab, and these, with the new Gwadar port coastline, offer a huge potential to provide further opportunities for fish farming in marine environment and freshwater reservoir. Pakistani government should seriously consider investing in aquaculture and providing support to fish farming industry. There is a large possibility of increasing output because the business environment is very suitable in Pakistan.

In 2020, when we are faced with the pandemic situation, in which many SME companies are struggling for survival, millions have lost their jobs, and people have reduced their spending except on essentials, there is a great opportunity to enter this industry to the benefit of both the farmer as well as the community at large. Fish farmers can produce more fish for food production companies or supply can be increased for fresh fish consumption in the food service sector.

The fishing industry only employs about 1 percent of the total labour force in Pakistan. Generally, these fishermen belong to lower classes and they survive on income generated from daily sales. If these fishermen are provided with easy loans to start a fish farm and the provincial government starts providing free courses for learning techniques to cultivate and harvest fish for regular income, it could greatly help in erasing poverty among fishermen and generate a sustainable income for them.

These fishermen also face major challenges due to natural disasters like earthquakes, monsoon and floods, since they live in groups near the coastal lines or on farms created close to the rivers. These fishermen need proper trainings for stocking and harvesting the ponds correctly. This will help them to reduce the losses while running fish farms in a safe environment.

Some of the best practices in the global fish farming industry are careful planning of ponds, where the continuous flow of water is available to get rid of fish waste. In the Philippines, farmers cultivate live fish stock inside rice farms, which is an efficient method to deal with the scarcity of freshwater and having a greater output. Rice is one of the major crops in Pakistan. If we apply the same technique in Pakistan on wider range, we can increase the output of fish farms in a freshwater reservoir and farmers can earn extra income.

We should do our best to utilise the natural resources that are available to us in order to raise our country’s population out of poverty and to put Pakistan truly on the path of progress.
Bangladesh govt. is trying to encourage commercial trawling and trawlers (having refrigerated holds up to 200 tonnes and) with 40 to 50 meter length are now commonplace. However because Bangladeshi distaste for saltwater fish (except Hilsa) other than dried fish means that any sea fish caught (even using Purse seiner method) is almost always meant for export to overseas markets.

Because of absence of Bangladesh deep sea trawler fleet (beyond continental shelf into pelagic waters) and weak patrolling by coast guard fleet, which is being augmented, Indian, Thai, Myanmarese and Sri Lankan trawlers have been having a field day so far for thirty years poaching in Bangladesh territorial waters. Recent apprehensions of poachers (both scale and frequency) attest how badly patrolling was needed.

Common 40m 200 ton Bangladesh trawler type



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