West Coast Marine Exporters Look East for Aquaculture Gains
KOCHI: Seafood exporters on the country’s western coast, facing dwindling sea catch, are taking a lesson or two from the aquaculture success of their compatriates on the eastern coast.
Traditionally, the West coast was better for trawling, and fishing in the region was dominated by wild catch. However, the depletion of fish wealth, due to six decades of trawling, has driven the seafood export fraternity to look at the shrimp farming model to boost business, says Norbert Karikkassery, President, Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI)-Kerala Region.
The SEAI–Kerala Region has asked consultancy firm KITCO to study the potential for aquaculture farming on the western coast, he said. Vast stretches of the Pokkali fields which lie idle, especially in the coastal areas of Kozhikode, Thrissur, Ernakulam and Alappuzha, offer an ideal setting for aquaculture farms. These fields have inherent water control systems, which will be conducive for aquaculture farming, Karikkassery told BusinessLine.
According to him, the country’s eastern coast has made giant strides in aquaculture and was instrumental in bringing substantially more forex earnings from marine exports.
This can be replicated along the West coast provided exporters benefit from technical guidance and policy support from the government.
According to figures put out by the Marine Products Exports Development Authority (MPEDA),seafood exports touched 9.50 lakh tonnes in 2015-16. Of this, aquaculture accounted for almost 60 per cent, valued at over ?20,000 crore.
Karikkassery pointed out that overexploitation of fishery resources on the West coast due to unregulated fishing had depleted fish wealth.
There had been no conservation measures, and even the ban on trawling during the monsoon season appears to be ineffective. “Today we have reached a situation where our catches have declined, and certain fish species have vanished from the coast, forcing us to explore new arenas for fishing operations”, Karikkassery said.
To meet export obligations, he said, seafood export companies now depend on aquaculture products from Andhra Pradesh for value addition. “A successful aquaculture model here will reduce the cost of production and create more job opportunities in the coastal areas”, he added.