Although Pakistan’s seafood exports have grown considerably even after the European Union’s ban, this achievement cannot be attributed to a real increase in terms of value. Compared with its neighbouring countries, such as India, Pakistan is still getting lower prices for its fishery products. The boost in value can mainly be attributed to the weakening of rupee against the dollar and the export of the last bit of edible fish in Pakistani waters to cheap markets such as China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and some other Far East countries along with Egypt and the Middle East. It’s good news that somehow the marine fisheries department has persuaded the EU to lift the ban on seafood exports from Pakistan but it must be noted that allowing one or two processing units is not going to resolve the problem just as a swallow doesn’t make a summer. The entire fisheries and fishing sector needs immediate revamping and renovation. Unless this is done it is doubtful if it will be possible to establish traceability and cold chain.

Unfortunately, a look at our harbour shows no signs of improvements in fleets design or the technology employed in the processing units. Fish is still stashed on the dirty fish-harbour floors and sold and transported with little or no ice. Most of the seafood processing units do not have adequate facilities for making ice and the ones which do have equipment are usually out of order. Almost all processing units are run by obsolete freezing and cold-storage machinery and equipment. There are poorly insulated stores where finished product deteriorates due to rapid fluctuations in storage temperature. The EU continues to be the largest market for Pakistani shrimp and some kind of fish. But with the dwindling stock of shrimp as well as fish, I am afraid export of these to the EU will be done at the cost of our fauna and flora. A reasonable balance ought to be kept if the welfare of the industry is desired before it is wiped off and the last fish caught.

Mazhar Butt,

Karachi, August 28.