Greenpeace: Fisheries crisis will hurt our economy

Report on ‘World Oceans Day’ warns of 15 million livelihoods and a score of marine fisheries at stake

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Press release - June 7, 2012
June 8th 2012, New Delhi: According to a Greenpeace report released today, India may suffer a three pronged threat owing to depleting fish stocks and historical neglect of marine conservation. Fisheries industry contributes about 1-2% to the national GDP besides providing livelihood to about 15 million people along the coast. Depleting fish stocks would not only result in massive job losses but would also hurt ecology as well as the national GDP.

Releasing "Safeguard or Squander? Deciding the future of India's Fisheries" on World Oceans Day, Shri Basudev Acharya, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture said, "We have reached a tipping point in Indian fisheries and the decision we make now about how to manage and conserve them will define this sector for the coming generations."

The report states that 90% of India's fish resources are at or above maximum sustainable levels of exploitation. These findings contradict the official statement that there is still scope for fish landings to increase despite the dangerously depleting fish stocks.

In addition to accounting for close to 2% of the national GDP and an average annual output value of Rs. 42,178 crores, marine fisheries form an important socio-economic component of the coastal regions. The fisheries sector has also been one of the major contributors to foreign exchange earnings through export. India's fish exports were worth over US$ 2.8 billion in 2010-11. 45% of this export value comes from marine capture fisheries and official targets are to raise this to 6 billion by 2015.

The report compiles statistical data and firsthand account of fishermen's experiences of living the crisis. T Peter, Secretary from National Fishworkers' Forum's, also present at the event, echoed the need for a comprehensive policy that would address the crisis by moving towards a sustainable approach to fishing that involves fishermen in decision making.

"Over the last two decades the economic and social consequences of the ongoing fisheries decline have been devastating to fishing communities, particularly those practicing medium to small scale non-mechanised and artisanal fisheries. Previously self-sufficient traditional fishing communities are witnessing the destruction of their natural resource base, resulting in poverty and migration to other occupations and other regions." he said.

According to Areeba Hamid, Greenpeace Campaigner, "Current levels of mechanised fishing are ecologically unsustainable and can never employ the millions that currently depend on non-mechanised fisheries for their livelihood."

The report also highlights ecological damage to marine biodiversity caused by overfishing. Capacity, intensity and technology used in combination directly impacts populations of specific species of fish, and also negatively alter ecosystems.

Over-capacity (too many fishing boats) leading to over-fishing, an over-reliance on destructive fishing techniques such as bottom trawling, and continued government subsidies for mechanized fisheries to the detriment of the more sustainable, employment generating non-mechanised (motorized and non-motorised) sector are the main causes of the current over-exploitation. This situation has been worsened by rampant pollution, destruction of breeding grounds such as mangroves and estuarine areas, hot water discharge from thermal power plants, industrial effluents, sewage from major urban centres and coastal over development. The report examines each of these reasons in detail and recommends an ecosystem approach to fisheries management to counter the impending crisis.

"Quite clearly, the situation in India mirrors the situation of the oceans globally. The world is watching us as we prepare to chair the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2012 and having chosen marine biodiversity as a key theme for the convention, this is India's chance to emerge as a champion for coastal communities and sustainable use of coastal resources." concludes Hamid.

For more information contact:

Areeba Hamid, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace India, +919900569456

T Peter, Secretary, NFF and President, KSMTF, +919447429243,

Shuchita Mehta, Media Officer, Greenpeace India, +919560990606,