India is one of the largest fish producing countries in the world and shares 7.58% to the global production. Contributing 1.24% to India’s Gross Value Added (GVA) and 7.28% (2018-19) to the agricultural GVA, fisheries and aquaculture continue to be an important source of food, nutrition, income and livelihood to millions of people. Fisheries sector in India has shown impressive growth with an average annual growth rate of 10.88% during the year from 2014-15 to 2018-19. The fish production in India has registered an average annual growth of 7.53% from 2014-15 to 2018-19 and stood at an all-time high of 137.58 lakh metric tons during 2018-19 (provisional). The export of marine products stood at 13.93 lakh metric tons and valued at Rs 46,589 crores (USD 6.73 billion) during 2018-19 with an impressive average annual growth rate of about 10% in recent years.
The marine fisheries potential is estimated at 5.31 million tons as against present production of 4.17 million tons during 2018-19 (provisional) [harnessing nearly 78% of the estimated potential] and its activities are spread along the country’s vast coastline with 2.02 million square km Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf area of 0.53 million sq.km. Besides, India is also bestowed with varied inland fisheries potential resources in the form of rivers and canals (1.95 lakh km), floodplain lakes (8.12 lakh hectares), ponds and tanks (24.1 lakh hectares), reservoirs (31.5 lakh hectares), brackish water (12.4 lakh hectares), saline/alkaline affected areas (12 lakh hectares) etc., with current estimated fish production potential1 of about 17 million ton as against production of 9.58 million tons during 2018-19 (provisional) [harnessing only 56.3% of potential].
Fisheries and aquaculture remain an important source of food, nutrition, employment and income for millions, especially the rural populations. In fact, the sector provides livelihood to about 25 million fishers and fish farmers at the primary level and twice the number along the value chain. Fish being an affordable and rich source of animal protein, is one of the healthiest options to mitigate hunger and nutrient deficiency. It has immense potential to enhance incomes and usher in economic prosperity to stakeholders. Hence it is essential that sustained and focused attention is given to the fisheries sector through policy and financial support to accelerate its development in a sustainable, responsible, inclusive and equitable manner.
Further, since majority of fisher folk directly depend on the sector, especially the small scale and artisanal fishers and are continue to fall behind the national indices of socio-economic development, it is essential to provide requisite impetus towards amelioration of poverty and backwardness among these marginalized and vulnerable communities and promote their holistic development and welfare.