The world's current population hovers just above the seven billion mark - that's a lot of mouths to feed. At the current rate with which the population is rising, concerns about providing a sustained food supply are growing. Agricultural output is already stretched and plugging in the gaps with fish as the source for protein is difficult due to current levels of overexploitation.
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) states that, about 1 billion people largely in developing countries rely on fish as their primary animal protein source. For example, while fish provide slightly over seven percent of animal protein in North and Central America, in Asia they provide over 26 percent, i.e. for people living in coastal areas in developing countries fish acts as a necessary staple food.
India ranks as the third largest fish exporting country due partly to its 8,118 kilometres of marine coastline, 3,827 fishing villages, and 1,914 traditional fish landing centres. India's freshwater resources consist of 195,210 kilometres of rivers and canals, 2.9 million hectares of minor and major reservoirs, 2.4 million hectares of ponds and lakes, and about 0.8 million hectares of flood plain wetlands and water bodies.
Fishing is big business in India, with species such as Bombay duck, sardines, silver pomfret and varieties of shark being among the most sought after fish. Fish production in our country has increased by more than five times, and the contribution of fisheries to the country's GDP has also increased three times, growth which is, arguably, one of the highest among the food production sectors.
Alarmingly still, the availability of fish per capita to the population is about 9 kg, less than the world average (12 kg) and the quantity (11 kg) recommended by the WHO for nutritional security. To help buck this trend, a progressive increase in inland fisheries production has been bubbling on the horizon recently owing to the development of eco-friendly, culture-based fisheries.
Writing in an earlier article for RESET.org, Stephen Walsh beautifully pointed out that the demand for exotic fish from aquarium owners worldwide has impacted negatively on India's freshwater fish population.
As mentioned in our Knowledge article on the topic of overfishing, according to a recent study by Greenpeace, 90 percent of India’s fish resources have reached or are operating beyond their sustainable level and poor regulation of the industry has contributed to a decline in growth of India’s fisheries. Fishermen are going farther and wider to secure a catch as traditional marine fishing areas show depleting numbers of commercially valuable fish.
MSC recently pointed out that if we want to safeguard food security for people around the world today, and let future generations enjoy the rich choice of fresh, healthy seafood that we know today, we need to ensure our oceans remain productive.
India currently requires strict monitoring of its coastal areas as well as on the ater itself and needs to push and facilitate sustainable fishing so that our future generations are not deprived of commodities which we had access to but overused.