Islamabad -  A total of 6,471,364 tonnes of cargo has been imported and exported through Gwadar Port since 2008, said Minister for Maritime Affairs, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo on Monday.

In his reply to the National Assembly, he said the port has been receiving cargo for general trade since 2008 and most of the volume has been government imports and mainly the import of ongoing CPEC related port and free zone projects. He said that some quantity of local fish has also been exported through Gwadar Port.

Replying a question of lawmaker Siraj Muhammad Khan regarding steps taken by the government to prevent foreign trawlers from fishing in shallow waters, the minister said the federal government has not issued any fishing licence to any foreign fishing vessel since 2009.

He said the federal government has given the powers to Commanding Officers of the ships, vessels and boats of the Pakistan Navy and Maritime Security Agency, not below the rank of lieutenant to exercise and perform all the powers and functions of fishery officers under Exclusive Fishing Zone (EFZ) to combat illegal fishing.

Replying another question, he said in 1999 the United States imposed a restriction on exporting countries that shrimps harvested with technology that may adversely affect certain species of sea turtle shall not be allowed to do business with the United States.

He said since 2000, this programme is being implemented in Pakistan. Based upon the visits of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) team in November 2014 February 2016 and recent visit in April 2017, the United States suspended Pakistan’s certification to export wild — caught shrimps — to the United States.

During the visit in April, the TEDs team boarded 24 trawlers and did not see any evidence that the fishermen were constantly using TEDs, however, the team was told by a representative of fisherman that only 70 percent of the trawlers have TEDs and admittedly do not use them at all times.

He said that due to government efforts, now about 750 shrimp trawlers have TEDs on board. He said in a meeting held on May 30, 2017, it was decided that a third party audit will be conducted for implementation of the TED programme on shrimp trawlers before inviting the USA inspectors.

He said on July 7, 2017, the MFD received the laboratory test report of nine samples of shrimp from the Aquatic Diagnostic Laboratory of National Centre Maritime Policy Research, Bahria University Karachi, in respect of shrimp disease as requested by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA). He said the report showed no evidence of the presence of viral pathogens including White Spot Syndrome Virus, Yellow Head Disease, Infectious Hypodermal and Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus, and Acute Hepato Pancreatic Necrosis Disease or Early Mortality Syndrome (AHPND/EMS) in the samples.

He said on August 8, 2017, the Marine Fisheries Department forwarded the copy of the report to the Ministry of Commerce for taking further action.