1st Five Year Plan
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Introduction || APPENDIX (CH-4) || APPENDIX (CH-9) || ANNEXURE (CH-12) || APPENDIX (CH-14) || APPENDIX (CH-24) || APPENDIX (CH-29) || Conclusion
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Chapter 23:

Fisheries in India, though very under-developed, contribute annually about Rs. 10 crores to the national income. Rich in proteins, vitamins and mineral salts, fish is a valuable protective food. It forms an important constituent of the diet over considerable areas. The development of fisheries is, therefore, one of the most promising means of improving the diet of the people.

Production Trends

2. The inadequacy and inaccuracy of the existing statistics for fisheries have been emphasized by several committees. The Report on the marketing offish published by the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection is the principle source of information. Some useful data about the marine fisheries has been recently collected by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Station. The technical committee on the coordination of fisheries statistics has examined the question of statistics in detail. Its report was published in 1950 and we hope that with the implementation of its recommendations by the Central and State Governments the position will steadily improve. A sum of Rs. 8 lakhs has been provided in the plan for the improvement of fisheries and livestock statistics.

3. Precise estimates of production of fish are difficult to obtain. The available evidence, however, shows that the present production is about a million tons, out of which about 70 per cent is sea and estuarine fish and 30 per cent fresh water fish. Madras, Travancore-Cochin and West Bengal are the three States which account for a major part of the production. As comparable figures of production for a sufficiently long period are not available, it is difficult to examine production trends. Information about the quantity of fish landed on the west coast of Madras since 1936-37 is available. The figures indicate : wide variation in the catch from year to year ; and (n) an increasing trend in production.However, in the absence of comparable data for other areas, it cannot be concluded that production of sea fish as a whole shows an upward trend.

4. As regards fresh water fish no figures are available to show the trend of production. The stocking of more than 70,000 acres of water area under the Grow More Food schemes should have increased production. On the other hand, the opinion has been expressed that a progressive decline in the production of fresh water fish has taken place due to

  1. the excessive growth of water hyacinth and submerged weeds in impounded waters
  2. neglect of tanks, beels, etc. consequent on the development of major irrigation works ,
  3. the silting of rivers, channels and beels ;
  4. over-fishing and destruction of finger-lings and immature fish ; and
  5. construction of dams and weirs over rivers which obstruct the migration of fish from and to their customary spawning grounds.

The measures required to promote the development of the inland fisheries are outlined in subsequent paragraphs. Here, it will suffice to emphasize the importance and urgency of adopting adequate measures.

5. At the present level of production the availability of fish for the country as a whole works out at 3.4 Ibs. per annum per capita as against 16 Ibs. in Ceylon, 70 Ibs. in Burma and 90 Ibs. in Japan. A considerable section of the population of India does not, however, eat fish. Allowing for this, the average per capita consumption is estimated at 4.94 Ibs. Availability varies considerably from State to State. Travancore has the highest consumption of 21 Ibs. per capita (about one ounce per day). Other States which consume considerable quantities offish are West Bengal (13 Ibs)., Madras (12 Ibs.), Bombay (7 Ibs.), Assam (6 Ibs.) and Orissa (5 Ibs.). Consumption is lowest in the Punjab (0.8 Ibs.). The requirements of a balanced diet are estimated at i .3 ounces per day per adult i.e., 30 Ibs. per capita per annum offish and/or meat. The availability of meat is poorer still. This indicates a large gap between availability and requirements.

Scope For Development

6. The scope for increasing production of fresh water and sea fish is certainly large. In the case of inland fisheries statistics for the area developed so far are not available, but it is known that only a fraction of the water area of 15 million acres under rivers, canals, jhils and tanks has been utilised. No surveys have, however, been carried out to determine the extent of culturable waters. The back water and estuarine fisheries are still very largely underdeveloped. India's coast line i,s 2,900 miles long. Though it is not as well indented as the coasts of, say, England and Japan and has a rather narrow continental shelf, it offers considerable scope for the development of sea and estuarine fisheries. Only a small portion of the resources is being exploited at present mainly for two reasons, namely, (i) the small country craft cannot operate beyond a few miles from the shore and (2) over a large area adequate harbour and landing facilities do not exist. Recent charting and exploratory offshore fishing operations carried out in the Bay of Bengal and along the west coast indicate that our seas are rich in a variety of commercial species offish which can be economically exploited.

Inland Fisheries

7. In order to draw up a phased programme for the development of the inland fisheries the first essential step would be to conduct a rapid survey so as to determine the cultuiable waters and simultaneously to investigate fish seed resources for undertaking large-scale stocking operations. Itwouldalsobe necessary to classify culturable waters into (i) those that can beutilised for fish culture without any expensive measures for their improvement and (2) derelict waters which would require a large capital outlay for improvement. For States which are at present deficit in fish seed resources, supplies would have to be arranged from surplus areas, where large-scale collection and distribution of fish seed would have to be organised. Large wastages occur in the transport of fingerlings and fry. Research work done at the Central Inland Fisheries Research Station at Barrackpore and the sub-station at Cuttack has demonstrated that mortality during transport and cultural operations can be greatly reduced. This work should be intensified. The bulk of the existing culturable water area consists of tanks and beels. Carp, which are the fish most frequently reared in Indian waters, do not spawn in impounded waters with the result that stocking operations in the same water have to be carried on year after year. If the artificial spawning of carp could be developed or alternatively such species of fish located as would spawn in impounded waters and would be otherwise suitable fot stocking, the industry could be improved considerably. The artificial spawning of species of fish that do not normally breed in enclosed waters has been successfully achieved in Brazil, and in Indonesia common carp from Europe are made to spawn three to four times in a year by special methods. We recommend that a high priority should be attached to research in this direction.

8. Other necessary steps for the development of inland fisheries would be to prevent over fishing and the destruction of fry and fingerlings by adopting, where necessary, adequate legislative measures, to improve derelict tanks and beels and to demonstrate improved cultural practices. The inland fisheries are dispersed all over the country side and their development requires an extension organisation on a large scale. We do not however visualise a separate organisation for the purpose and suggest that fishery extension work should generally form part of the normal duties of the agricultural extension organisation and pisciculture should form part of agricultural education in agricultural schools and colleges. Some fisheries staff may, however, be necessary at State and other levels for giving technical guidance and training to the field staff. Arrangements exist at the Central Inland Fisheries Research Station for theoretical and practical instruction in modern piscicultural practices and this staff could be trained there.

9. The appearance of water hyacinth and other weeds in impounded waters has affected their productivity very seriously. Attempts at destruction of this weed have not yielded satisfactory results so far and further investigation and research appear necessary to evolve suitable mechanical devices and chemical weedicides for their destruction.

10. The existence of private rights in village tanks has often hampered the development of inland fisneries. These have largely disappeared as a result of the abolition of zamindaris and fishing rights in them now vest in State Governments. Their systematic management is, therefore, a responsibility of the State. This work would be very much facilitated by enl'sting the co-operation of local bodies. We would recommend the acquisition of fishery rights in waters which do not vest in the State Governments if their owners fail to carry out the suggestions made by the State Fisheries Department. The West Bengal Government have already eftacted legislation to this effect. The Fisheries Department should also have facilities fof developing fisheries in all State waters without necessarily taking over their management in other respects. We would also suggest that for developing fishing in the multipurpose projects and dealing with other problems arising therefrom the State Irrigation Departments should have staff for fisheries development, which should work under the technical guidance of the Fisheries Department.

11.The long coast line of India has numerous estuaries and brackish-water lakes and backwaters rich in fish. The braekishwater area is computed at about i. 9 million acres, and includes the Chilka lake covering about 256 thousand acres and yielding about 3,000 tons offish annually. The bulk of the area vests in State Governments and is very largely undeveloped. Its development for fisheries involves large capital investment for the construction of suitable embankments and sluices. The stocking operations should not present much difficulty as fish seed is available locally. In Travancore-Cochin, a small area has been reclaimed and converted into productive fisheries. Similar undertakings should be organised in other States and areas settled in suitable blocks with cooperatives of fishermen.

Marine Fisheries

12. Efforts at development of marine fisheries should be directed towards—

  1. mechanisation of country craft and introduction of new mechanised boats,
  2. introduction of mothership operations,
  3. charting for deep sea fishing and development of the located fishing grounds.
  4. provision of training facilities ;
  5. creating adequate ground organisation ;
  6. supply of requisites to fishermen ; and
  7. efficient marketing.

The number of boats in operation is estimated at about 70,000. It has been indicated that the small country craft do not operate beyond a few miles from the shore and spend much of their time in going to and from the fishing grounds. Consequently production per unit of effort is low. Mechanisation of fishing operations would enable the fishermen to reach areas outside the range of the existing craft and also to fish for longer hours. The manner in which mechanisation can be accomplished is likely to vary from region to region. In some areas some of the indigenous crafi may be found suitable for mechanisation through installation of small inboard or outboard engines; in other area they could be brought into service on the basis of mother-ship operations. In still others it may be found more economical to introduce new types of small powered fishing craft, scientifically designed, and constructed but conforming to the traditional lines of the craft normally used. About 4,000 boats operate along the Bombay coast of which it is estimated that about a thousand would lend themselves to mechanisation. Some machhwas, hodas and hodis on the Saurashtra Coast can also perhaps be mechanised. The catamarans operating along the east coast which are perhaps the cheapest and most efficient contrivance for landing fish on sutf-beaten beaches, are not suitable for mechanisation. Although it is not possible to determine, without a proper survey, the total number of existing boats which could be mechanised, their number may not be very large. In Bombay useful pilot work has already been done in mechanising country craft and in Madras small mechanised vessels, not very different in design from the existing craft, have been introduced and are reported to be doing well. It may be useful to send parties of fishermen from other areas to see these boats for themselves. The Plan provides for mechanisation of 140 boats—100 in Bombay, 20 in Saurashtra and another 20 on the west coast of Madras. Provision has also been made for the introduction of fourteen 30—35 feet mechanised boats of multipurpose type. We would also recommend that the construction of new boats should be guided and supervised so that they may lend themselves to mechanisation subsequently.

14. There is also good scope for development of mother-ship operations on the west coast of India. These would require tugs equipped with refrigeration facilities and suitable for towing the types of craft at present operating along the coast. The Plan provides for 2 tugs as mother crafts—one to be lo'cated off the Saurashtra Coast and the other, at Cochin.

15. As in other countries, the large scale development: of off-shore fisheries in India would require the introduction of larger types of powered fishing vessels such as purse seiners and trawlers. It is believed that purse seiners, which have not yet been tried in India, would be useful for catching mackerel, oil sardines and other shoaling fish which appear in Indian waters during certain months. We have, therefore, provided for two purse seiners, for experimental purposes, one to operate around K'arwar, mostly for catching mackerel, and the other to be based at Cochin for catching oil sardines.

16. The Fisheries Department of the Government of India and of the West Bengal Government have done useful exploratory trawling in waters off Bombay and in the northern parts of the Bay of Bengal. They have located good fishing grounds and collected other useful data which indicate that our off-shore waters offer considerable scope for fishing. There are some other areas, such as Wadge Bank and Pedro Bank, which offer equally good prospects. The Ceylon and Madras Government trawlers have charted these areas and demonstrated that there are commercial possibilities. Possibly due to lack of proper ground organisation, i.e., transport, landing and servicing facilities, refrigeration arrangements and marketing, Indian trawlers have not yet fully demonstrated the possibilities of commercial operations and the trade has not therefore, been attracted to undertake such operations. Since 1951, a Japanese trawler, Tayo Maru No. 17, has worked along the west coast. The catches obtained by this vessel during the last six months have been satisfactory. Even under severe monsoon conditions fairly good catches have been obtained. Provision has, therefore, been made in the Plan for a somewhat similar trawler for operations in the Arabian Sea. Bull trawling i.e., operations by two small trawlers working together, as practiced in Japan, appears to offer good chances of success in Indian waters. If the Japanese technique and personnel, with experience of fishing in tropical waters, were made use of in these operations, it should be possible to obtain better results. We have, therefore, provided for 3 small trawlers for the West Bengal Government for bull trawling. Provision has also been made in the Plan for renovating Government of India trawlers and fitting them with equipment for bull trawling in the Arabian Sea for which they are considered suitable. The Madras Government have also got eight motor fishing vessels which have recently been repaired for off-shore operations.

17. It is well known that'fishing grounds carry a greater abundance offish when virgin than after having been fished, and therefore the initial catches should not be regarded with excessive optimism. For trawling to .be commercially successful it is necessary that there should be a sustained catch over a long period. A close analysis of the catch landed in ports is, therefore, essential to ensure that grounds are not depleted.

Personnel And Training

18. The commercial success of trawling even though the grounds are well charted, will depend largely on the efficiency of the personnel employed. It is, therefore, important that immediate arrangements be made for the training of adequate Indian personnel. The Government of India have been alive to this and a batch of eight trainees is being given intensive training in modern fishing methods. It was also made one of the conditions of the licence granted to the Japanese Company that they would undertake the training of Indian crews. In the selection of the crews preference should be given to persons belonging to the fishing community. For a balanced and planned development of the Industry it is necessary to take the assistance of experts with considerable knowledge and experience of ground organisation and marketing, such as fisheries engineers, naval architects and harbour specialists. The Government of India are arranging to get the services of some of these experts through the F. A. 0. and under the Point Four Programme. It is important that the experts arrive, so far as possible, simultaneously and work as a team. Provision has also been made in the Plan for obtaining the services of fishing technicians required for manning fishing vessels. Where boats are mechanised or new mechanised boats are introduced, arrangements for training fishermen in handling such boats would be necessary. A sum of Rs. 5 lakhs has been earmarked for the purpose in the Plan.

Ground Organisation

19. As stated earlier the success of commercial fishing operations is very largely dependent on the efficiency of the ground organization which should include landing and servicing facilities, refrigeration plants, quick .transport arrangements and efficient marketing. Liaison with port authorities would be necessary for provision of landing facilities. Inadequate servicing facilities have meant plenty of waste of time in the past which should be remedied immediately by permanent long term arrangements. To avoid glut and scarcity conditions and prevent the considerable amount of spoilage which occurs at various stages, arrangements for ice and cold storage and quick transport facilities are necessary at the landing ports and assembling and distribution centres. The Plan, therefore, provides for installation of 9 ice factories and cold storage plants as follows :—

Madras (West Coast) 1 of 50 tons.
(East Coast) 2 of 50 tons each.
West Bengal 1 of 50 tons.
Bombay 2 of 30 tons each, and i for chilling 100 tons.
Orissa 2 of 15 tons.
Saurashtra 1of 30 tons.
total 9

20. Transport of large quantities of fish to inland areas at considerable distances fron the coastal centres will require the use of insulated or refrigerated rail transport and we suggest that the Railway Board should examine the feasibility of introducing insulated wagons at the important assembling centres. Insulated road* vans will also be useful for supplying fish withir short distances of these centres and we have, therefore, provided for 11 such vans a follows :—

Madras (West Coast) 2
(East Coast) 1
Travancore-Cochin 2
West Bengal 2
Orissa 2
Bombay 2
total 11

Landing facilities for the country craft at the fishing hamlets and minor harbours, particularly along the west coast, require the clearance of silted up approaches, and provision for a dredger has, "therefore, been made in the Plan.

Supplies And Marketing

21. The fishery trade is beset with middle-men. Almost everything required by fishermen for carrying on their trade—boats, hooks, yarns, and sail cloth—has to be obtained through middlemen to whom they have to part with much of their earnings, A boat is generally manned by 3 to 12 men working as a team. It may be owned by one of them or all may be the employees of an absentee owner. There have been complaints that the right types of supplies are not available to fishermen at reasonable rates and in good time, which means a considerable loss of working hours. The difficulty of getting enough hooks, yarn, twine, nylon and other lines has been repeatedly brought out. A determined effort to organise fishermen's co-operatives and liberalise supplies of essential requirements is necessary to eliminate middlemen and enable fishermen to increase their working hours. In Bombay, Madras and Orissa a good amount of pioneering work has already been done in distributing fishermen's requisites through co-operatives. We would recommend that all supplies should be distributed through co-operative societies as far as possible. Provision of these facilities should attract more men to the fishing industry and result in increased production. About Rs. 60 lakhs have been provided in

23. Preserved fish is very largely used by the poor because of its cheapness. The provision of quick transport and refrigeration plants would increase the supplies of fresh fish but would add to its cost and it would probably be beyond the reach of the poor man. Increasing supplies for the poor man will, therefore, depend on increasing the availability of preserved fish. Facilities for the supply of the requisites of fishermen and the mechanisation of country craft for which we have made provision in the Plan, should result in larger production and, therefore, increased availability of preserved fish.

24. There is considerable scope for improving the quality of preserved fish. Salt impurities result in large-scale spoilage. Useful work has been done in salt curing by the establishment, of government curing yards. Fish cured at Government yards is generally more wholesome as it is prepared under more hygienic conditions and expert supervision. There is, however, scope for research to determine the best curing seasons and types of cure and the degree of purity and correct proportion of salt required for preserving the different varieties of fish. This research should be intensified. The government yards had bscome popular because salt was supplied free of excise duty for curing, but with the abolition of the excise duty the differential rate of salt has disappeared and in many areas the people are reverting to curing at private yards. There are only two ways of preventing them from doing so, namely :

(i) subsidising the supplies of salt; and (2) compulsion. Both of them may be necessary for some time. Salt supplies at the curing yards in Madras, Travancore-Cochin and Saurashtra are subsidized. The Madras State Plan provides Rs. 53 lakhs for salt distribution.

25. The margin between the producers' price and the consumers' price even in the case of cured fish is large. Any increase in producers' (fishermen's) margin of profit without raising consumers' price would largely depend on increasing the return per unit of effort by improving the efficiency of fishing operations and eliminating spoilage at stages preparatory to marketing. Reduction in consumers' price without depressing producers' margin would depend on decreasing handling charges and retailers' margin. It is well known that in most fish markets in India handling is unhygienic and a considerable amount of wastage occurs. Regulation of markets and establishment of planned marketing premises are as essential for improving the quality of the marketed fish as for reducing costs and should receive high priority. Elimination of middlemen by co-operative marketing may bring about some reduction in handling charges as and when efficiency in operations is developed.

26. As large scale fishing operations develop, large catches will be landed at Bombay, Cochin and Calcutta ports on some days of a month when, as a result, conditions of glut may be created which may cause wide fluctuations in prices and, therefore, a feeling of uncertainty in the trade. This would depress prices in the producing centres and as a result the small fishermen would suffer. To protect the interests of the fishermen as well as the consumers the best course would be that the supplies at these three centres should be marketed through Co-operatives which should, so far as possible, also operate the ice factories and refrigeration plants. We suggest that the State Governments should take early steps in that direction and arrange for the training of adequate managerial staff for these co-operatives. Meanwhile fish marketing Boards consisting of representatives of fishermen, the trade, the consumers and the State Government may be established at these centres to regulate marketing.

The Fisheries Plan

27. In working out the development programme outlined above we had to allocate certain priorities which were based on a balance of many considerations such as the nature of the fisheries, the availability of resources and technical ski U, the present stage of development, the interests of small fishermen and lastly the need for immediate increase in production. For instance, in the maritime State of West Bengal emphasis has been on the development of inland fisheries for which there is very considerable and immediate scope. On the other hand, in Madras, Bombay and Travancore-Cochin the principal schemes relate to the development and expansion of marine fisheries. In the case of inland fisheries the priorities are the survey and stocking of new culturable waters and collection of fry. In the case of marine fisheries the priorities are—

  1. mechanisation of country craft or introduction of new mechanised boats ;
  2. harbour facilities ;
  3. supply of requisites to fishermen ,
  4. development of marketing ;
  5. provision of ice and cold storage and transport facilities ;
  6. introduction of mothership operations ; and
  7. provision for off-shore fishing with larger powered vessels such as purse-seiners and trawlers.

Based on these priorities the Plan provides for a total expenditure of Rs. 4.6 crores in addition to the provision under the Technical Cooperation Aid Programme. The fisheries programme will raise production from the present figure of i million tons to 1-5 million tons at the end of the Plan.

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