Building a Blue Economy: Learnings from China


    In Context

    • India must raise its own fishing fleet and build modern harbours to further its blue economy & security goals.

    What is Blue Economy?

    • According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the:
      • “Sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.” 
    • European Commission defines it as:
      •  “All economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts.

    Significance of India’s Blue Economy

    • India’s blue economy:
      • It is a subset of the national economy comprising the entire ocean resources system and human-made economic infrastructure in marine, maritime, and onshore coastal zones within the country’s legal jurisdiction. 
    • Coastal states and islands:
      • With some 7,500 kilometres, India has a unique maritime position. Nine of its 29 states are coastal, and it’s geography includes 1,382 islands. 
    • Ports and Exclusive Economic Zone:
      • There are nearly 199 ports, including 12 major ports that handle approximately 1,400 million tons of cargo each year
      • Besides, India’s Exclusive Economic Zone of over 2 million square kilometres has a bounty of living and non-living resources with significant recoverable resources such as crude oil and natural gas. 
    • Coastal settlements:
      • The coastal economy sustains over 4 million fisherfolk and coastal communities.

    India’s fisheries sector

    • For India too, fish, being an affordable and rich source of animal protein, is one of the healthiest options to mitigate hunger and malnutrition
    • Post independence scenario:
      • Since Independence, India’s marine fishery has been dominated by the “artisanal sector”poor, small-scale fishers who can afford only small sailboats or canoes to fish for subsistence. 
      • India’s artisanal fishers deliver only 2 percent of marine fish to the market, while 98 percent is caught by mechanised and motorised craft.
      • Having commenced as a purely traditional activity, India’s fisheries are being transformed into a commercial enterprise. 
    • Current growth:
      • The sector has shown steady growth and has become a major contributor of foreign exchange
        • India ranks amongst the world’s leading seafood exporting nations. 
      • Fisheries provide livelihood to about 15 million fishers and fish-farmers at the primary level, and generates almost twice the number of jobs, along the value-chain — in transportation, cold-storages, and marketing.

    Learnings from China

    • Since the scarcity of farmland forced China to become a net importer of food grain, it has mobilised the fishing industry to meet the rising demand for protein in the Chinese diet. 
    • Deepwater fishing:
      • Consequently, China is today a “fishery superpower”, which owns the world’s largest deep-water fishing (DWF) fleet, with boats that stay at sea for months or even years. 
      • In 2016, while China consumed 38 per cent of the global fish production, its DWF fleet brought home only 20 per cent of the world’s catch. 
    • Distant deepwater fishing:
      • To bridge this gap, China had begun distant deepwater fishing, as far back as in 1985, and, with an eye on “protein and profit”, struck contracts to fish in the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of other many countries in Asia and Africa. 
      • Interestingly, China also uses a part of its fishing fleet as a “maritime militia”, which assists the navy and coast guard in their tasks.

    Issues & challenges for India’s fisheries

    • Absence of deepwater fleet:
      • India’s figures for fisheries sector could have been much higher had India invested in a deepwater fleet. 
      • Since Indian trawlers do not venture into rich fishing grounds, most of the fishing is being undertaken in coastal waters and our fishermen have to compete with those of neighbours, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, in restricted fishing grounds. 
    • Drifting of vessels:
      • Fishing vessels often drift, inadvertently or otherwise, into foreign waters leading to apprehension by navies/coast guards and prolonged imprisonment of the crew. 
    • Unexplored EEZ:
      • Moreover, the rich resources in India’s EEZ remain underexploited and much of the catch from our fishing grounds is taken away by the better-equipped fishing fleets of other Indo-Pacific countries; some of them indulging in illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing
      • IUU also has serious security and environmental implications.
    • Lack of cold storage and exports:
      • Currently, most of India’s fisheries exports are at a low level of value addition — in frozen and chilled form — without going for higher-order “ready-to-eat” or “ready-to-cook” marine products.  


    • As in many other sectors of the maritime domain, India needs to evolve a long-term vision for its fishing industry with focus on four areas: 
      • Mechanisation and modernisation:
        • Mechanisation and modernisation of fishing vessels by providing communication links and electronic fish-detection devices, with artisanal fishers being funded for this; 
      • Deep-water fishing fleets:
        • Developing deep-water fishing fleets, with bigger, sea-going trawlers equipped with refrigeration facilities; 
      • “Mother ship” concept:
        • A DWF fleet will have to be built around the “mother ship” concept, wherein a large vessel would accompany the fleet to provide fuel, medical and on-board preservation/processing facilities; 
      • Post-harvest facilities:
        • Development of modern fishing harbours with adequate berthing and post-harvest facilities, including cold storage, preservation, and packaging of fish.

    Government initiatives

    • Matsaya Sampada Yojana: 
      • It is a flagship scheme for focused and sustainable development of the fisheries sector in the country.
      • It will bring about the Blue Revolution by harnessing fisheries’ potential in a sustainable, responsible, inclusive and equitable manner.
    • Sagarmala Project: 
      • Vision of the Sagarmala Programme is to reduce logistics cost for export-import and domestic trade with minimal infrastructure investment.
    • Coastal Economic Zones: 
      • The government identifies CEZs in the National Perspective Plan for Sagarmala Programme.
      • CEZs aims to promote exports by providing infrastructure and facilities to entrepreneurs to set up businesses and industries near Ports.
    • Indian Ocean Rim Association: 
      • India has been taking active participation in the IORA for promotion of blue economy in Indian Ocean littoral states.

    Way ahead

    • The blue economy occupies a vital potential position in India’s economic growth. 
    • Countries like Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia, and Norway have developed dedicated national ocean policies with measurable outcomes and budgetary provisions


    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] The blue economy occupies a vital potential position in India’s economic growth. Analyse. What can India learn from China, which today is a “fishery superpower”?