The sustainability and conservation of our aquatic ecosystem which constitutes of various freshwater habitats, with oceans and seas covering more than 70 percent of the Earth, has gained a lot of attention in recent times at national and international forums. It also underpins key economic sectors, such as fisheries and tourism. However, today these habitats are constantly facing huge threats from various actors.
As predicted by eminent scientists and practitioners across the world, millions of tonnes of our plastic waste released into these habitats by humans are harming creatures, including seabirds, turtles, crabs and other species. To curb the impact caused to these habitats, it is imperative that more awareness be created amongst nations to take responsible actions, work towards conservation of environment and leverage existing resources to reverse and restore the planet Earth. However, at the same time one must understand that protecting and restoring the entire ecosystem is a massive task and needs to be taken up collectively by nations across the globe on priority and at a faster pace.
The Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India truly recognizes the urgency to protect these habitats while ensuring optimal utilization of our national resources. In view of the same, the schemes and programmes being implemented by the Department, aims at the growth of the fisheries and aquaculture sector, keeping sustainability of environment as prime focus.
“Blue Revolution”, the flagship scheme of the Department, launched in the year 2015, aimed to achieve economic prosperity of the country and the fishers and fish farmers as well as contribute towards food and nutritional security through full potential utilization of water resources for fisheries development in a sustainable manner, keeping in view the bio-security and environmental concerns. Under Blue Revolution, total funds of Rs. 2573 crores were released as central assistance to various States and Union Territories and various organisations for sustainable and holistic development of fisheries and fishers’ welfare, along with promotion of environment friendly aquaculture practices.
As part of Blue Revolution scheme, various environment friendly technologies were adopted for safeguarding of our aquatic ecosystem. Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) were supported; RAS technology is eco-friendly, water efficient, and is a highly productive intensive farming system, with zero environmental impact. Likewise, Sea Cages for marine fish culture were promoted and supported, Seaweed cultivation has also been promoted, fish lean/ban period have been implemented during the breeding season amongst many other initiatives. Solar panel units for producing energy to operate water pumps, aerators and carrying out other fisheries related activities were provided assistance under the Blue Revolution Scheme. This entailed providing one-time central assistance to beneficiaries for procurement and installation of solar power support system for fisheries. These initiatives amongst others have played a major role in protecting the land as well as the aquatic ecosystems.
To further build-on the achievements in the fisheries sector through implementation of the Blue Revolution Scheme and develop the sector in a sustainable and responsible manner, the Government of India launched a flagship scheme of “Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)” in May 2020, with highest ever estimated investment of Rs. 20,050 crore under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat package.
PMMSY aims at sustainable and responsible development of fisheries sector with focus on infrastructure, species diversification, sustainable livelihoods, aquatic health management, robust database, innovations, collectivization, modernization of value chain, export promotion, establishing a robust fisheries management framework, with special focus on implementing technologies that ensure protection of habitats and fisheries wealth. In this context, the Department is taking up a range of activities including implementation of bio-flocs, Recirculatory Aquaculture System (RAS) with special focus, Reservoir cage culture, open sea cage culture for conservation of marine fisheries and risk mitigation to marine fishers, sea weed cultivation for supporting livelihood and ushering prosperity for coastal communities especially women in sustainable environment friendly manner alongwith providing livelihood and nutritional support for fishers’ families for conservation of fisheries resources during fishing ban/lean period. Furthermore, the Department is also actively promoting installation of Bio-toilets in fishing vessels to keep the marine environment clean and prevent contamination of marine resources.
PMMSY aims to promote sustainable fish production systems/methods with minimal environmental impacts to support more crop per drop. Integrated Modern Coastal Fishing Villages will be developed under PMMSY with investment of Rs750cr to leverage Blue economy/Blue growth with an aim to maximize economic and social benefits to coastal fishers while minimizing environmental impact through sustainable fishing practices. Project proposal with total outlay of Rs2881.41cr have been approved under PMMSY during 2020-21 for sustainable development of fisheries and fisheries related infrastructure including fishers’ welfare.
Alongside, the Fishery Survey of India (FSI) is also developing new fishing practices and gears that will help in minimizing the physical and biological degradation of marine ecosystem. The diversified fishing methods like trap fishing, hook and line, bottom set vertical longtime, tuna longline, mid water travel, pot fishing etc. have been introduced and successfully experimented with zero damage to the marine ecosystem.
The Department understands that healthy aquatic habitats are vital to meeting sustainable development goals and hence, restoring and recreating them is a massive challenge. The Department is committed to improve the biodiversity and maintain ecological balance to bring about a positive change through its environment friendly programmes, policies and practices in the country.
It is thus the endeavor of the Department of Fisheries that the growth of the fisheries sector be recognized not only for its contribution towards the growth of the Indian economy but also for outcomes that are economically, socially and environmentally inclusive. Additionally, the Department will continue to work with nations at international forums to collaborate keeping conservation of environment and ecosystem as priority and in best interest of all humankind.