via MSMA by makutarama on 7/30/0830-07-2008
A motorized canoe passes by fishing boats anchored in the middle of the Rangoon river. (Photo:AP)
The Burmese offshore fishing industry is at a near standstill because of high fuel prices and a shortage of human resources and other supplies, say sources in Rangoon.
A businessman from the fishing community said about one-fifth of the offshore fishing fleet, including trawlers and drifters, now engage in daily fishing trips.
"They can't afford to pay for diesel," he said. "A normal trip consumes about 100 barrels of diesel. A barrel of diesel is around 320,000 kyat (US $273)"
According to the Myanmar Offshore Fishing Vessel Owners Association, there are 536 registered offshore fishing vessels; about 100 vessels are now working.
"If a boat goes to sea, it will spend at least 60 million kyat, including other general expenses," said a captain of a fishing trawler. "We can catch only a small amount of fish after the cyclone, and we can't earn enough for our expense."
According to the Burmese Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, 2,088 offshore fishing boats were destroyed in the cyclone, 17,876 fishery workers from the Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon Division were killed, and 9,612 fishery workers are missing after the May 2-3 cyclone.
Before Nargis, Burmese offshore fishing trawlers typically caught a minimum of 1,500 baskets of fish each trip, while today's catch is around 500 baskets (one basket is 50 viss or about 81 kg).
Fish and prawns for sale in Rangoon's Ahlone wholesale fish market have decreased drastically, said one shopkeeper.
"We don't receive fish and prawns like before," he said. He said fish sell in local markets now from 3,000 kyat to 7,000 kyat a viss (equivalent to 1.26 kilograms) and prawns sell from 3,000 kyat to 15,000 kyat depending on the size. There are about 1,170 kyat to $1.
Burma has a 2,700-kilometer coastline and annually harvests around 2 million tons of sea products. More than a million tons of ocean products are exported, according to government statistics.
Burma fishery exports go mainly to China and Thailand, with smaller amounts to Japan, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United Kingdom, according to a report by the Myanmar Aquaculture & Fisheries Association.
Kyi Wai - Irrwaddy