Like other coastal nations, the Government of Pakistan every year celebrates world fisheries day on the 21st of November to highlight the fact that fishing is an essential source of revenue generation for the Country. It provides millions of job opportunities and improves the fisherman’s livelihood.
Most coastal dwellers have adopted fishing as their profession. According to the current census, 0.4 million coastal dwellers are directly linked with the fishery industry in the Country, thereby putting significant pressure on fisher resources. The fisherman in the Country catches about 500,000 tons of fish every year using motorised boats operated from four fish harbors and nine landing jetties in Sind and Balochistan Provinces. Karachi is the largest fish harbor in the Country that handles 80% of all fishing fleets. Pakistan has a solid policy-level implementation in shallow waters, but its capacity is still poor in deep waters.
Therefore, the fisher community in Pakistan is entirely dependent on fishery resources; any change in Pakistan’s total fish biomass is bound to have a significant socio-economic impact on the livelihood of its fishermen. Moreover, the recorded increase in catch is primarily due to the overexploitation of marine resources than to the rise in productivity. The depletion of Pakistan’s marine fishery resources may also be attributed to the government allowing foreign trawlers to fish within the country’s waters.
Although marine fishing is one of the significant sources of foreign exchange in the country, little planning and legislation have been conducted to ensure the sustainable development of this sector. The poor management of fisheries in Pakistan remains a persistent issue partly due to the lack of awareness of the decision makers about the modern techniques for fisheries management and to the fact that their current management measures are not aligned with international standards.
The main factors that hamper the development and management of Pakistan’s fisheries include the lack of human capacity and institutional arrangements in the government and public sectors, the complexities of offshore and inshore fishery resources management, and the poorly developed safety regulations for fishing vessels.
In other words, the planners and government officials in the country rarely address the environmental, conservational, and sustainable development issues faced by the coastal and land areas of Pakistan. Hence, increased competition for fishery resource utilisation in specific areas resulted in power resource conflicts between elite stakeholders and local citizens. Therefore, the sole power over resource utilization in the Country is inevitable for actors involved in decision-making.
Many management strategies are currently being used to conserve marine fishery resources. These include centralised approaches, for example, ocean zoning, limiting access through licenses or establishment of marine protected areas, and a fishing quota system. Moreover, zoning provides coastal and marine planners and decision makers some ways to set broader concepts about the ocean context, in which spatial areas are designated for the purpose of ecological conservation, sustainable utilisation, and smooth operation of socio-economic activities. Ocean zoning improves fisheries management practices in the Country and promotes a variety of mari-culture enterprises to complement and protect fisherman’s livelihoods.
Ocean zoning implementation in Pakistani marine waters will offer a method for controlling fishery resources and essential improvement measures. Zoning divides coastal and marine areas into functional units based on their natural resource-carrying capacity. This often gives a big picture of ocean management, allocating specific areas for different socio-economic activities while ensuring a safe and healthy ocean ecosystem.
The ocean zoning in Pakistan will provide new insight into the policy framework regarding sustainable fishery resources management. Many more socio-economic opportunities will divert the pressures on targeted activities, including fishing. Numerous benefits can be obtained from adopting zoning in the country; for example, it helps reduce user conflicts, conserve and protect key ecological areas, advance socio-economic activities, improve livelihood, and provide diversified job opportunities related to coast and marine.