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Seminar on ‘aquaculture diversification: The way forward for blue revolution’ held

Bhubaneswar, Nov 29: Fish forms the main source of animal protein in the food basket almost half of Indians.  Of the 9.58 million metric tonnes (2013-14) annual fish production from the freshwater, marine and brackish water sector, only a fraction is being exported and the bulk caters the domestic market. Even then, the current consumption levels at 7.02 and 9.06 kg/capita/yr for the rural and urban population, respectively, are below the ICMR recommendation at 11 kg/capita/yr and much below the same in the developed countries. It is estimated that the average per capita consumption for fish would increase to 11.6 kg by 2050. Such higher fish requirement coupled with the population growth put the required fish production at approximately 16.9 to 22.4 MMT in 2050, which is almost double the present level.

At present, the inland sector with fish production at 6.14 MMT contributes the major share (64.1% of total) of the total fish produced in the country. While fish production from the marine capture has been almost stagnant at 3.0-3.5 MMT during last decade, the brackish water sector has almost been synonymous with the shrimp farming and catering to the export market. Both marine and brackishwater aquaculture sectors have their limitations with problems of large scale adoption to increase the fish production. Such situations leave the entire responsibility of bridging the future gap of additional 9.0-10 MMT fish requirement on the freshwater sector and more particularly on the aquaculture sector which contribute more than 83% (5.1 MMT) of the inland share.

The most important challenge the freshwater sector faces today is how to bridge the future gap of demand and supply of fish. Further, the increased production has to be achieved against the odds of land, water and labourer scarcity, climate change effect and  complying to the task to (i) increase farm income in the face of low market value of carps,  the main stay of Indian aquaculture, (ii) preserve the species diversity in the face of their dwindling stock in the nature, (iii) produce varied fish protein to satisfy diverse consumers’ choices, (iv) increase fish production per unit use of land and water, and  (vi) produce fish in a sustainable and environment friendly manner. Of the 2.414 ha of potential area in the country available for aquaculture, almost 60 % is at present utilized. Horizontal expansion even up to 100% utilization level of pond resources may not be sufficient to cater the fish demand. Therefore, vertical increase in the average productivity of the culture system is the need of the time to raise the present level of 2.9 t/ha to a level higher than at 5.0-6.0 t/ha. This can be realized with adoption of the modern tools and techniques developed in the sector during the last 70 years of research in the country and elsewhere in the world. Diversification of the aquaculture species and systems is one of such important technique that provides enormous scope to utilize the different water bodies and ensures effective utilization of the resources with increased productivity level. Fortunately our country has a very strong diversity of fish fauna in our natural freshwater system. Of the 900 plus freshwater species reported in the country at least 40 have been shown to have culture potential as food fish while a large number of indigenous small fish have ornamental value. Such a strong diversity provides enough scope to diversify our freshwater aquaculture system to increase its production.

In India, substituting the entire major carp component from the culture system is a remote possibility. In such situation, successful introduction of any new species largely depends on its compatibility with the major carps and performance in the grow-out system since polyculture with carp is the most feasible option. Attempts towards diversifying the aquaculture system by ICAR-CIFA during last decades have shown enough possibilities to incorporate more than two dozen of species into our culture system. Since availability of seed is a pre-requisite, mass scale seed production and rearing technologies for these new species have already been standardized in ICAR-CIFA and elsewhere in the country. Efforts are also on to bring new-species under the culture umbrella. The Institute also has developed grow-out farming technologies for several potential species that includes minor carps, barbs, catfishes, murrels, etc.

In the above context ICAR-CIFA organised the national seminar on ‘Aquaculture Diversification: the way forward for Blue Revolution’ to promote the culture and conservation of indigenous fish species through diversified aquaculture system which may support rural livelihood and the national food security.

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