The Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, has proposed substantial investments in modern fishing harbours and fishing landing centres in the Union Budget.

To start with, five major fishing harbours – Kochi, Chennai, Vishakapatnam, Paradip and Peetuaghat – will be developed as a hub of economic activity. “We will also develop inland fishing harbours, fish landing centres along the banks of rivers and waterways”, the Minister said in the budget speech.

Hailing the initiative, K.Riji John, Vice-Chancellor, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies told BusinessLine that one of the major problems associated with the fish and shellfish catch is the deterioration of the quality on its arrival in the harbour and subsequent pre-processing. A well-developed fishing hub can look into the proper development of all the connected facilities in terms of quality assurance of the landings, its hygienic handling, pre-processing, packing and transportation to the processing units. Proper availability of infrastructure and accessories, including quality ice, dry ice, and cold slurry units would help maintain the quality of the landed catch.

Referring to Kochi, he said the harbour’s development would help the fishermen community on a large scale considering the large number of boats accessing the dock. The area under Cochin port Trust is available adjacently could be used for further expansion, and it needs to be declared as SEZ or so for expanding the cold storages, ice plants, processing plants.

C.N.Ravishankar, Director, Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, pointed out that fish is a highly perishable commodity, and it requires well-developed, efficient landing and handling facilities and distribution channels. “The development of fisheries harbours is the right step towards the promotion of responsible fisheries. The budget announcement will help in improving the infrastructure facility, maintaining the quality of the landed catch and thereby improve the overall value of fish and fish products.”

He said, the announcement is in line with the development of fishing harbours under the centrally sponsored scheme component of PMMSY. An amount of ₹2,154 crore has been earmarked as central the share for revamping the management and operations under PPP mode for 2020-25.

While improving the fisheries sector’s infrastructure development, Charles George, general secretary of Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi (TUCI) said that the government should also address the concern of the producing community who are passing through difficult times in the recent period due to fish drought in the seas. “We welcome the budget announcement. At the same time, the government should address the issues plaguing the sector by providing financial support to the fisher-folk to tide over the crisis like that of MSP given to farmers”, he said.