Go for tuna. That is the message Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh has to give to marine exporters.
Addressing a workshop organised by the Marine Products Export Development Authority in Port Blair, the minister said ways should be found to exploit the tuna resources in the seas surrounding the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Ramesh said the tuna resources in the Andamans was key to diversifying and growing the country's marine products export basket. India's seafood exports were $1.4 billion of which 55 per cent was from frozen shrimp.
The dependence on a single product has to end and diversifying the product range is the only answer to that. The MPEDA hopes to double marine products export by 2011 to promote employment generation. Both these issues could be addressed by organised exploitation of the islands' marine resources, he said.
The Andaman and Nicobar islands' Exclusive Economic Zone of 0.6 million sq km is about a third of country's exclusive economic zone. The marine resources are estimated at about 2.43 lakh tonnes, which is about half that of the resources available to India. Last year India's tuna exports were about 20,000 tonnes.
Improving the fisheries economy of the islands holds the key to providing livelihood opportunity to the people in the islands.
India's export of marine products was primarily in the frozen form without value addition. This was a criminal waste of resources, said speakers at the workshop.
The islands need modern harbour facilities to exploit the tuna reserves pegged at about 70,000 tonnes a year.
A delegation of tuna long line owners from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh urged the administration to free the controls that prevented Indian operators from operating in the Andamans.