KARACHI: Restriction on fishing during the months of June and July has left hundreds of thousands of fishermen deprived on their only source of income. As a result, a large number of them are living in abysmal conditions in more than 150 fishermen colonies, located along the 129-kilometre long coastline of Karachi.
These fishermen catch up to 0.8 metric tonnes of fish annually, which is sold in international markets for approximately Rs20 billion, which is added to Pakistan’s foreign reserves. However, no step is taken for the welfare of these fishermen, who earn billions for the country.
According to boatsmen in Ibrahim Hyderi, fishermen are living in derelict conditions, in the “rapidly developing Pakistan.” The boat pilots explained that the biggest challenge fishermen face is that of employment. They are restricted by various laws and burdened by taxes, the boatsmen remarked, adding that fishermen are exploited by traders, brokers and mole-holders, who buy their catch at extremely low prices.
The boatsmen reflected on fishermen’s misery, claiming that they were paid according to rates fixed in 1980 despite significant rise in prices due to inflation.
They were of the opinion that the deprived community of fishermen is now anxious and insecure about its future.
Boatsmen lamented that with no money and living hand to mouth, fishermen wouldn’t be able to celebrate Eidul Azha and criticised the government for not taking any steps to improve their condition.
Fishermen have time and again expressed concerns over the damage caused to marine life due to deforestation of mangroves. Due to the rapid deforestation of mangroves, breeding sites and habitats of fishes, prawns and other marine animals are severely affected.
Fishermen have also warned that overfishing has led to the loss of 75% of fish in the sea and if the situation persisted, no fishes would be left in the sea by 2045.
The fishermen have demanded from government to ensure the availability of facilities like healthcare and education in fishermen colonies.
They have also asked to be provided with employment opportunities and maintained that a durable national fisheries policy be enforced.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2019.