Kochi: After a successful venture into tuna fishing off Andaman and Nicobar islands early last year, the country’s marine trade promotion body plans to adopt mechanical fishing to catch more squid in Indian waters and prop up exports.
Marine Products Export Development Authority, or MPEDA, will engage the government’s Fish Survey of India to identify the untapped squid potential in the seas, said? director ?Kuruvilla Thomas.
Business opportunity: A man holding a packet of squid in London. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett / Bloomberg
India exported 34,000 tonnes of squid worth Rs406 crore in 2007-08, a sharp drop from the 47,252 tonnes of exports worth Rs568.32 crore in the previous year. Most of the squid were exported to Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Greece and Portugal, where it is part of the popular cuisine, as well as to Japan, where, like it is eaten raw.
MPEDA will also seek assistance from other government institutions such as the Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical Engineering Training and the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in its new venture. The trade body also proposes to hire an international consultant familiar with squid fishing that uses a process called jigging—in which powerful lights are fitted on boats to attract squid and the lines dropped for hooking the fish are pulled back mechanically.
But unlike with tuna fishing, where large boats have to be converted for mechanical fishing, jigging for squid can be done by fitting equipment worth around Rs3-3.5 lakh on small boats.
“This method has so far not been tried in Indian waters,” said Thomas. “We are talking with different research institutions and major players abroad for identifying a consultant, like we did for tuna fishing.”
Currently, squid are caught manually using trawlers and country boats.
“Jigging can add to the country’s export earning since the full potential of the squid wealth has not been tapped,” said Anwar Hashim, squid exporter and national president of the Seafood Exporters Association of India.
“But there has to be survey of where the squid is available before embarking on the project,” he added.
Tuna exports have increased substantially after MPEDA decided to tap the tuna wealth of the Andamans. Exports increased to 32,700 tonnes worth Rs196 crore in 2007-08, from 23,788 tonnes of exported that fetched Rs130.38 crore in the previous year.
India’s total marine products exports, however, fell to Rs7,570 crore in 2007-08 from Rs8,363.53 crore earlier.