A quarter of harvested fishes is lost in the country because of poor infrastructure and handling of the catch, resulting in annual losses worth over Rs 15,000 crore to the marine and inland fisheries sector, according to a sector-specific analysis by Assocham.
Moreover, fish stocks in India’s deep-sea waters also remain untapped owing to the dearth of suitable fishing vessels. Traditional fishing communities are over-exploiting the coastal waters, which is leading to fast depletion of maritime resources and shrinking the catch from the coastal zones.
The post-harvest losses are generally caused due to poor handling and processing of fish. Biochemical and microbiological spoilage, inadequate packaging, marketing malpractices and lack of proper storage facilities are to be blamed.
“These wastage results in potential income loss to fishing community and all the stakeholders, traders and processors involved in fishing-related ancillary operations as the spoiled or damaged fish fetches 20-25% lower price compared to the best quality catch,” said Assocham secretary general DS Rawat.
Assocham has suggested that the government should modernise the existing harbours and establish more cold storage facilities and factory vessels to aid the R61,000-crore fishing and marine industry.
Production of value-added fishery products should be encouraged to realise better returns for producers, besides top-notch harbour and storage facilities also need to be developed, said Rawat. Sustainable practices like eco-friendly fisheries management must be adopted in capture, cultivation, utilisation and marketing of marine products and there is also a need to bring in regulations check over-exploitation of fisheries resources, he added.
The industry body also said that fishermen should be taught improved methods of fish handling and provided with preservation facilities on-board fishing vessels through joint ventures for production and marketing of value-added products.
“Maximum care should be taken while catching, storing and handling of fish to avoid any damage to the catch as it would go a long way in improving the quality of India's marine products. The entire fishing community, the policy makers and other stakeholders need to find alternative sources to encourage more sustainable practices in aquaculture, otherwise it could lead to degradation of land and marine habitat,” said Rawat.