Fishing is an important secondary source of income to some farmers and a primary occupation in small fishing villages. Almost three-fifths of the catch consists of sea fish. The bulk is marketed fresh; of the remainder, more than half is sun-dried. Fish and fish products account for about 2.5–3% of the total export value. Deep-sea fishing is not done on a large scale. Inland fishing is most developed in the deltaic channels of Bengal, an area where fish is an important ingredient of the diet. In recent years, the government has been encouraging ocean fishing through the establishment of processing plants and the introduction of deep-sea craft. Fishing harbors have been built along the coasts of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Under the fifth national plan (1974–79), fish farming was encouraged through the creation of Fish Farmers' Development Agencies. Fish production achieved a new high of about 3.7 million tons at the end of the seventh national plan (1986–91).
The total fish catch in 2000 was 3,594,396 tons (eighth in the world), of which marine fish accounted for 2,797,682 tons and inland sources for 796,714 tons. Fish exports, still only a fraction of the potential, have shown a steady gain in recent years. In 2000, exports of fish products amounted to over $1.4 billion.