Sustainable fishing practices can help improve fisheries resources and to reduce poverty and food insecurity among fishing communities, experts said on Wednesday and called for making efforts to modernise small-scale fisheries and build the capacity of the fishermen to restore the depleting fish stocks and modify fishing methods.

Speaking at the conference titled ‘Enhancing the Role of Small-scale Fisheries in the Blue Economy of Pakistan’ hosted by the WWF-Pakistan, experts said participation of local fishers should be ensured in the management of the fisheries and market-based opportunities should be created to improve their livelihood and income generation capacities.

The event was attended by officials from the Marine Fisheries Department, Sindh Fisheries Department, representatives from the National Institute of Oceanography, Karachi Fish Harbour Authority, students from Karachi University and Bahria University, and local community members.

Muhammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser, WWF-Pakistan, said: “Blue economy is an emerging growth and governance model, which aims to combine environmental sustainability and economic value. We need to integrate small-scale fisheries into this model which promotes social equities and creates income generation opportunities for the fishermen.”

He said that new fishing jetties should be established and equipped with modern facilities, and suggested that post-harvest losses, overfishing, and unsustainable fishing practices should be controlled through effective regulatory mechanisms. “We must encourage sustainable small-scale fisheries and promote income generation opportunities for the local fishers,” he added.

Favad Soomro, head of Engro Foundation, said that Pakistan is blessed with enormous coastal and marine resources and the blue economy could foster the country’s growth and significantly improve the lives of poor fishers. He said that we need to explore the potential of our coastal ecosystem and strengthen fisheries development.

He remarked that it was high time to work towards effective management of the small-scale fisheries through public-private partnerships and called for coordinated efforts to shift from the brown economy to the blue economy.

Faisal Iftikhar, CEO AquaHatch International, said that due to pressure on marine and freshwater fisheries, we need to promote aquaculture as it can help improve food security and create new economic opportunities. He shared that Pakistan has great potential for this initiative and it can restore environmental health and enhance the well-being of the marginalised fisher communities along Pakistan’s coast. He also said that to provide nutritious food resources and reduce hunger, the aquaculture industry is booming at a fast pace.

WWF-Pakistan, with the support of the Engro Foundation, has been implementing the Sustainable Fisheries Entrepreneurship Project in two coastal union councils of Karachi since 2016. Through this project, the organisation has built the capacity of fishers on sustainable fishing practices and the promotion of alternative livelihood options. Ghazi Salahuddin, director (Incharge), WWF-Pakistan, and Altaf Hussain Sheikh, manager conservation WWF-Pakistan, also spoke on the occasion.

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