Leading fishing firms East India Tuna Fisheries and Moon Fishing India Pvt. Ltd have announced plans to begin tuna fishing off the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
The announcement followed discussions that minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh had over the weekend with officials of Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) and representatives of fishing firms with an aim to tap the tuna wealth of the islands. After the talks the minister said a scheme for the two firms taking up tuna fishing activities would be finalized within a month.
The 1,962km coastline around Andaman and Nicobar has been found to be a major source for a variety of tuna fish that has become a hot item in the South-East and Far-East Asia. With a marine fish production of 30,000 tonnes, which is about 12% of the estimated potential, the islands are presently doing very little of tuna fishing.
In the last fiscal year, India earned $1.84 billion (about Rs7,300 crore) from marine exports. Of this, tuna’s contribution was only $20 million.
”Indian marine exports have been dangerously dependant on frozen shrimp. The strategy being devised using the potential Andaman offers is to take this to $500 million in the next four years. Andaman is geographically located near the South East and Far East Asia which is the market for tuna,” Ramesh said.
The share of Andaman through its 30,000 tonnes is just 1.4% of the country’s marine exports. The main impediment for tuna fishing has been the lack of long line tuna vessels and onboard freezing facilities, the minister said. He said the government is looking at supporting conversion of shrimp vessels.
Lack of proper training has also been a stumbling block for tuna fishing but MPEDA chairman G. Mohan Kumar said it will be addressed through a series of training programmes for fishermen.
Several fish landing centres on Andaman and Nicobar were destroyed in the December 2004 tsunami. Fisheries secretary and Andaman’s development commissioner Janak Digal said the government has allocated Rs150 crore for developing fishing infrastructure on the islands. The schemes would be drawn up on the basis of the potential of the tuna wealth in the area, he added.
M.V. John, scientist at the Fisheries Survey of India, said surveys showed the area has tuna potential of around 50% of the available marine wealth in the 0.6 sq km of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) surrounding the islands.
J.M.N Gordian Kagoo of East India Tuna Fisheries says his company has so far converted eight fishing vessels for tuna fishing with refrigerated seawater system that can store the catch at one degree C.