In anticipation of a visit by an American delegation to evaluate the implementation of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in shrimp-catching nets, stakeholders and fisheries departments in Pakistan are looking to address a persistent issue that led to the ban on shrimp exports to the US in 2017.
The ban was imposed due to the absence of TEDs in shrimp nets, endangering turtles—an endangered species. TEDs are metal devices inserted into trawl nets to allow shrimp to pass through while preventing larger species like turtles from getting caught.
A communication gap, lack of enthusiasm among fishermen, and concerns about low shrimp prices and higher fuel costs previously hindered compliance with the TED requirement. It is estimated that Pakistan missed out on $150 million in annual exports to the US.
Efforts are now underway to encourage compliance. The Fishermen Cooperative Society (FCS) has introduced a lightweight aluminum TED priced at Rs. 13,000-14,000, addressing durability issues associated with iron devices. Fishermen will be trained on their use, encouraging them to use TED nets for compliance and to earn foreign exchange.
Sarwar Siddiqui, Patron in Chief of the Sindh Trawler Owners and Fishermen Association, emphasized the need to follow US laws to gain clearance for shrimp exports. Various government departments and stakeholders are working together to convince fishermen to use TEDs.
However, challenges persist, including concerns about big fish getting stuck in the mouth of the net where TED is fixed. The Livestock and Fisheries Department has mandated strict TED implementation on shrimp trawlers, and fishing permits will not be issued without TED installation.
Training programs have been conducted by the Marine Fisheries Department, Karachi Fish Harbor Authority, and Fishermen Cooperative Society Limited, certifying boat captains on TED use and installation. In the second phase of the initiative, further training is ongoing to ensure widespread compliance.
The hope is that these efforts will lead to a successful review by the American delegation in the next three to four months, potentially lifting the ban and allowing the revival of shrimp exports from Pakistan to the US.