By Satyen Mohapatra
June 28, 2018
New Delhi: India has slowly shifted from a major marine fishery nation to inland fishery nation particularly with expansion of aquaculture through various policy measures and interventions of the government over the years.
So much so that India today has become the second largest fish producing and second largest aquaculture nation in the world next only to China.
The Government has re-structured central schemes under an overall umbrella scheme of Blue Revolution looking at the scope for development in fisheries and aquaculture.
Through Blue Revolution, the government hopes to provide a focused development and management of the fisheries sector to increase both fish production and fish productivity from aquaculture and fisheries resources of the inland and marine fisheries sectors.
The term “Blue Revolution” generally refers to aquaculture(aquatic culturing of animals and plants, occurring in marine, brackish and fresh waters) as an important and highly productive agricultural activity.
The provisional figures for total fish production during 2015-16 was put at 10.79 million metric tonne (MMT) with a contribution of 7.21 MMT from inland sector and 3.58 MMT from marine sector which clearly shows the dominance of aquaculture as freshwater aquaculture is about 80 percent of inland fishery.
One of the main reasons government of India has given priority to fisheries sector and aquaculture is because it generates high volume employment for farmers and fishermen adding to their earnings.Fisheries sector employs over 14.50 million people at the primary level and many more along the value chain.
Exploitation of the sea over the years for fishing has led to a dwindling trend in marine fisheries today where we would not like to over exploit our fishery resources.Over 1900 marine fish species available, 200 commercially important also require attention for their survival due to their complex food chain and inter– dependent existence.
Even though Inland fish production has reached great heights, India has yet to exploit its full potential in this sector.
The vast inland resources include a network of rivers, canals, estuaries, floodplain lakes and the ponds and tanks located in different geographical regions as well as man-made reservoir resources which could be utilized for fishery.
While pond/tanks and reservoirs are the two main pillars of growth, other resources such as upland waterbodies, floodplain lakes and wetlands, irrigation canals, saline and waterlogged areas can also be used to increase production of fish.
The areas which need attention when we talk of freshwater fish farming is lack of quality inputs in terms of seed, feed, health management, post-harvest including value-addition and marketing support. So production and distribution of quality seed and feed for aquaculture and availability of quality water take priority if we want to increase production and productivity from inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country.
There are huge cold water resources like upland streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs located at medium to high altitudes in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, West Bengal and all North-Eastern States.
These water bodies are inhabited by diverse kind of fish fauna of over 300coldwater fish species. At present, the total fish production from upland areas constitute about 3 % of inland fish production of India which is a very small share to the overall production.
Commercial farming of high value cold water species like exotic rainbow trout has been taken up successfully with Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim leading in trout farming and recently Arunachal Pradesh.
Brackish water estuaries due to fluctuating salinity have huge potential for both fish and shell fish culture. Valuable fish like seabass, pearl spot and shrimp could be cultured in large quantities buthardly 15 % of brackish water areas are developed for commercial farming.
The Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) is regulating activities in brackish water to farm shrimps, oysters, mussels, crabs, lobsters, sea bass, groupers, mullets, milk fish, cobia, pompanos, pearlspot, ornamental fishes and sea weeds.
In Haryana and Punjab, saline land and ground saline water which was unfit for any other agriculture use is now being used for commercial farming of marine shrimps and turning out to an economically viable solution for small and marginal farmers.
Ornamental fish farming, although a non-food activity also has a promising future and is likely to contribute to the overall growth of fisheries sector in the coming years in terms of foreign exchange earnings and additional livelihood opportunities both in the urban and rural areas.
It has been observed that inland fishery today is dominated mainly by the freshwater fishery. In order to enhance production, there is a need for diversification of fish production in other areas like introduction of new high value fish species in aquaculture systems, integrated fish farming, aquaculture in coldwater areas, canalfisheries, culture-cum-capture fisheries, where fish is cultured in large waterbodies in enclosures such as cages and pens, brackish water fisheries etc.
The recent measures therefore have targeted Intensive Aquaculture in ponds and tanks through integrated fish farming, carp polyculture, catfish culture, freshwater prawn culture, brackishwater fish and shrimp culture.
In intensification, new systems such as re-circulatory aquaculture system (RAS), running water system, bio-floc system, etc also need to be adopted by the farmers for producing bulk of fish from smaller water bodies. Recently marine sector has also shown excellent production under cage farming whereby marine fishes are being farmed in open sea-cages in 8 coastal states of the country.
Expansion of area under aquaculture has to become an important option to boost fish production. In this context, derelict water bodies, saline and sodic lands could be immensely useful and could be an important resource to boost fish production for meeting the future fish demands of the country.
Coastal Orissa for instance, is endowed with large areas of unutilized water bodies like derelict canals and drains. Similarly, Brahmaputra basin of Assam has enormous beels lying idle. There are about 1.3 million hectares of beels and other derelict water bodies in the country.
Bringing these water bodies into the ambit of fisheries will boost fish production tremendously and hence expansion of fisheries in these water bodies is one of the focus areas of the department for increasing fish production.
The Blue Revolution, in its scope and reach, focuses mainly on creating an enabling environment for an integrated and holistic development and management of fisheries for the socio-economic development of fishers and fish farmers, keeping in view the sustainability, bio-security, food safety and environmental concerns.