Kochi: A Rs14 crore investment to set up infrastructure to fish for tuna and convert 100 local fishing vessels to long-line ones fit for netting the fish has been set in motion.
The step would involve getting an approval from the Andaman and Nicobar administration in 45 days for the companies that have proposed to establish tuna fishing facilities along the Andaman coast. The initiative is expected to give tuna fishing a shot in the arm.
An action plan to develop tuna fisheries in the country, which would focus initially on the waters off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, was released in Port Blair on Sunday by Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for commerce, who said Indian marine export of around $1.8 billion (Rs7,074 crore) was precariously dependent on shrimp, which accounts for 53% of shipments.
From as low as $29 million during the fiscal 2007, the Union government hopes to hike tuna exports up to $500 million with the implementation of the action plan in five years, Ramesh added. As part of development of infrastructure for tuna fishing, setting up of cold storage facilities, on board the boats as also on shore, is also being mulled. After being caught, tuna has to be gilled, bled completely and then kept in cold storage to maintain quality. The action plan initially hopes to invest Rs14 crore in the next 18 months towards these goals. Of this, Rs5 crore would come from the commerce ministry, Rs5 crore from the National Fisheries Development Board, and Rs4 crore from the Andaman and Nicobar administration.
The commerce ministry has written to the civil aviation ministry for help in setting up an international air cargo terminal in Port Blair so that the tuna can be flown to destinations in Japan and China, which are its major consumers. Unlike other fish, tuna needs dedicated, long fishing lines that go up to 50 metres down the sea. Boats also would need to have cold storage because the fish has to be frozen immediately after being caught.
Nearly 100 fishing vessels would be converted to tuna long liners in the Andamans, which accounts for one-third of the country’s tuna wealth and has a coastline of 1,962km that is about one-fourth that of India.
The region has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 0.6 sq. km, which is around 28% of the country’s EEZ. Conversion of traditional vessels to tuna-fishing boats is estimated to cost around Rs30 lakh per unit.