Dr. B. K. Das & Dr. A. K. Das
India is approaching at a steady rate towards achieving ‘Second Blue Revolution’ by 2022 onwards with a target of doubling farmers’ income through sustainably exploiting the ‘aquaculture and fisheries sector’ – the most vibrant sector amongst all agricultural avenues in India with an all-time high of 12.59 million metric tons (MMT) fish production during 2017-18 (Handbook Fisheries Statistics, GoI, 2018).
Nutritional security through duly addressing ‘Hidden Hunger’ (micronutrient deficiency), ‘Protein Hunger’, and ‘Calorie Hunger’ especially in the larger perspective of rural India has been given utmost importance by this sector besides generating substantial employment to a vast array of people.
Registering an impressive growth of 44.5 folds in inland fish production during the last 67 years, from a mere 0.2 mt in 1950-51, the annual inland production rose to 8.90 MMT in 2017-18. The booming sector has been transforming rapidly to an entrepreneurial scale from a mere traditional format witnessing an increase in fish production to an impressive mark with great hope of accentuating GDP value in Agriculture.
The vast, varied and diverse inland fisheries resources encompass 45,000 km of rivers, 5.54 lakh ha floodplain wetlands, and more than 35.17 lakh ha reservoirs spreading over different geo-climatic areas, with huge untapped potentials in producing fish, focusing on mitigating wide gap between potential and actual realization.
There is ample scope of exploiting judiciously the underutilized/neglected huge derelict water bodies – canals, closed floodplain wetlands, open colliery pits (OCPs), brick kiln ponds, stone pits, check-dams – the very valued aquaculture resources in the inland sector where culture-based-fisheries could be opted with more transparency and profitability through co-participatory management.
ICAR-CIFRI has been endeavouring through its technological interventions not only enhancing fisheries from these ecosystems but also keeping vigil on biodiversity conservation in riverine ecosystems, the revival of fish spectrum through river ranching in a true sense, maintenance of ecosystem health-supporting and timely intervening Government planning extending need-based support to the States Department of Fisheries for production enhancement from their resources through eco-orienting approach so that the long-term sustainability of aquaculture and fisheries should not be under the threatened condition in near future as to maintain sustainable quality protein supply, economic and social wellbeing of the country’s growing populations.
Role of ICAR-CIFRI in human kind
Future of exploiting potential sources of inland fisheries: Realization of fish yield from Indian reservoirs (110 kg/ha) and wetland (500 kg/ha) is low in spite of high production potential (Reservoirs, 100-600 kg/ha; wetlands 1600-2500 kg/ha). The immense scope of increasing inland fish production from such under-exploited ecosystem opting culture-based fisheries (CBF) in its true sense and applying new culture techniques like enclosure culture (pen and cage), utilization of bays and coves for conservation besides observing stock enhancement in a more prudent manner is holding the key for contributing substantially to the fish basket of the country in the days to come. It is imperative, at this juncture to apply technology-driven management protocols including methodologies to place enhancement tools in their place for wider coverage of such water bodies to improve the fish production to a greater extent.
Addressing aquatic biodiversity: To support and sustain production functions following enhancement protocols from these vast inland resources without compromising biodiversity reserve is the future challenge. The leftover and under-utilized available food niches are being exploited and targeted while designing a stocking program with economically important candidate species including carps. Apart from carps, many indigenous varieties of fish species available in the wetlands can be exploited as ornamental and high-value food fishes. Maintaining eco-health has to be given topmost priority keeping a good vigil on eutrophication to the maximum possible extent
River ranching – a new initiative in Ganga system: The riverine networks comprising 14 major and 44 medium rivers, innumerable tributaries and distributaries with enumerable branches combining an overall length of 45,000 km having 20,000 sq. km of catchment, supporting one of the finest fish germplasm resources of the globe. In addition to these, innumerable numbers of smaller rivers and rivulets on both the coasts, which end up in estuaries diverting voluminous flow into the coastal areas.
The floodplains, the life-line of riverine fisheries are primarily continuum of rivers at the down-stream of the course and exist in the form of oxbow lakes, especially in the state of Bihar, West Bengal, Assam Manipur, and eastern Uttar Pradesh originated from Brahmaputra and Gangetic basins. The fishes especially Indian major carps (IMCs) are depleting at a very faster rate from river Ganges because of water abstraction, siltation, pollution, overexploitation, anthropogenic perturbations resulting in natural recruitment failure including unscrupulous fishing practices. ICAR-CIFRI under NMCG Project has been endeavouring in rejuvenating Ganga fishery through river ranching of IMCs besides monitoring on its spatio-temporal variations in limonological status, biodiversity conservation, and Govt. Planning Support. So far, 20 lakhs fingerlings of IMC (>100 mm) have been ranched into the system in 25 sites in the entire river course from down Haridwar to Kolkata during the last one and half years utilizing broodstocks of the river itself to maintain genetic purity. It is targeted to ranch one crore fingerlings within the coming three years.
Boosting enclosure culture
Pen culture in floodplain wetlands and reservoirs: Besides opting for stock enhancement protocol, technologies for seed raising and rearing of table size carps including giant freshwater prawn in pen enclosures installed in reservoirs and floodplain wetlands have been developed by ICAR-CIFRI. This would run in intensive culture mode where high production is achieved. A production of 4000-5000 kg table-sized IMCs in 4-5 months with 80% survival, table size giant freshwater prawn of 1500-1600 kg in 4-5 months period with 70% survival and carp fingerlings of 600-700 kg in 3 months with 70% survival could be achieved per ha of open area with a cost-benefit ratio of 1.3 to 1.5, which is a modest approach of intensive cultural practices. Wider applicability and adaptability of this technology have been followed in West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, Bihar, Odisha reservoir, and some parts of Uttar Pradesh was well demonstrated by ICAR-CIFRI.
Cage culture in reservoirs and deeper wetlands: Cage culture in deeper wetlands and reservoirs have often been developed as an independent process parallel to the enhancement of capture or CBF to utilize per unit water productivity of such ecosystems in a more fruitful way which is expanding at a rapid rate. It is a successful proposition in fish seed rearing and & raising of table size fish species of economical importance including highly congregating tilapia (O. nyloticus) and Pangas (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) with faster growth in cages made up of low to moderately costing locally available materials installed in reservoirs and floodplain wetlands as developed by ICAR-CIFRI. The problem of nonavailability of quality stoking materials – a pre-requisite in the enhancement of fish production through CBF, at the doorstep of such water bodies have been eased out opting by this technology.
Adoption of this technology can lead to exploitation of high production potential of the open waters through stoking of requisite fish seeds; can produce up to 150-200 no. of fish fingerlings of stoking size per cubic meter of the cage at a cost-benefit ratio of 2.5 to 2.7. About 30 to 40% of the requirement of seed for stoking in these aquatic systems could be raised through cage culture. The cage culture technology disseminated by ICAR-CIFRI has been well adopted by 15 states of India through mission mode project NMPS, of DAHD&F, Govt. of India. Pangas (P. hypophthalmus) has grown at a faster rate with more congregations per unit volume of water in cage (50-60 kg/m3), shown the tremendous scope of protein supply at a very low cost of production (Rs. 40-50/-per kg), being well accepted by many DOF of different States including private entrepreneurs.
Diversification with economically important fishe viz, Ompok bimaculatus, Lates calcarifer, Puntius sarana, Laeo rohita (Jayanti rohu), L. bata, Murrels, Air-breathing fishes – Anabus testudineus, Clarius batrachus, GIFT Tilapia, some ornamental fish species and shellfish like M. Rosenbergii in cages will be the future options. More than 20,000 cages having 5x5x4m/6x4x4m cage dimensions are in the functional mode to support protein supplement and livelihood of rural Indians installed in Indian reservoirs and some deeper wetlands up till 2018-19.
Canal fisheries development
ICAR-CIFRI endeavored the unexplored sector of canal fisheries development with a view to utilizing these untapped resources for livelihood and eradication of malnutrition in poverty-driven Indian Sundarbans delta, where more than 2000 numbers of freshwater canals dugout for water harvesting devise with the availability of waters for 6-7 months. The programs were initiated under TSP project in two islands: viz., Bali I of South 24 Parganas with 16 ha canal coverage, and Kalitala Block of Sandesh Khali island with 6 ha canal coverage under North 24 Parganas of Subndarvans during 2014 September onwards. With an input of Rs. 2.04 lakh in the form of fish seed, feed, and fishery utensils to 1200 tribal farmers of these two islands, an amount of Rs. 20.94 lakhs got realized as revenues out of these canal fisheries activities in a span of two years. The Institute has been opting to explore some more canals in this delta under this scheme as well as SCSP project to encompass and ensure the exploitation of these useful resources through co-participation in the days to come. This would at least provide 30% of additional income to the local people preventing them in venturing core areas of Sundarvans for their livelihood. Even, the canals in other States of India have been surveyed to explore as to what extent they would be brought under semi-intensive culture practices without hampering water supply for irrigation for which they have been constructed.
Application of GIS in delineating inland open waters: The country has an estimated 1.2 million hectares (mha) of floodplain lakes and wetlands where fish and fisheries remain an age-old traditional economic activity with impressive socio-economic impacts in the rural sector. In addition, 35.17 m ha reservoirs having ample scope of fisheries enhancement playing a decisive role in filling fish buskets of our country from the inland sector. To know the present status of these water bodies, application of GIS tools for delineating these precious resources in individual State has been applied by CIFRI and so far 19 states have been covered by mapping out inland water resources under GIS platform which will be of immense help for the line Department of the respective States as well the developing organizations enhancing fisheries in such ecosystem. The rest of the States would be covered within a very short period for which works are under progress.
Application of nanotechnology for combating diseases in inland open waters, advanced research on proteomics & Genomics, Indexing Biodiversity, Anti-microbial Resistance (AMR), addressing hidden hunger for rural India by evaluating small indigenous fish species (SIFs) as a health food, conservation of hilsa (T. ilisha) by ranching in the upstream of Farakka barrage, besides monitoring riverine systems in regard to ecology and fisheries, fish production using domestic sewage in EKW, reaching to unreached through extension and training supports and extending all sorts of need-based technological backstopping to the number of states across India, ICAR-CIFRI remains vigil in addressing doubling farmers income by 2022 onwards generating employment by securing life and livelihood of rural India.
(Dr. B K Dash is the Director, ICAR-CIFRI, and Dr. A K Das is the Principal Scientist & In-charge, E&T Cell, CIFRI. Views expressed are personal.)
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