Aquaculture for all

Kerala Fish Farmers Switch Species to Net Good Returns

Economics +1 more

INDIA - Fish farmers in Kerala State are moving away from their dependence on traditional carp varieties to more commercially important species with a view to cashing in on the depletion in wild catch.

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Aquaculture in Kerala, forced by frequent outbreak of diseases, switched from traditional shrimp farming in pokkali fields to farming carp varieties like katla, rohu, mrigal and grass carp. However, these varieties have not been giving enough returns, reports TheHindu.

However, a fish farmer V.M. Shibu in Kottappuram says that he has now been farming new species and the results have been impressive. A kg of sea bass fetched Rs. 450 a kg during the last harvest and Mr Shibu is going to harvest cobia for the first time in April and is looking forward to a price band of Rs. 300 to Rs 350 a kg.

Farmers are also quickly taking to farming scampi, mangrove crab (mud crab) and Nile tilapia, which are popular in African countries.

What has made these switchovers a reality for the farmers is the availability of high quality crab seeds and fingerlings through the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture, a society under the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).

Several projects have been launched in the State. One of these is at Muthalamada in Palakkad district to farm scampi. The project farms all-male population of scampi so that the commercial results are good. Traditional scampi farmers have been weighed down by differential growth of the male and female giant fresh water prawns.

But the breakthrough by the RGCA in brood stock development has ensured that production of all-male progeny is now possible. An MPEDA official said that the project in Palakkad is for farming male scampi as they grow faster and gain weight easily.

The MPEDA estimates that if scampi culture is done in the 2,000 hectares of water bodies identified as suitable for the purpose, Kerala would be able to generate about Rs. 200 crore yearly in aquaculture income. Statistics from the MPEDA also show that open water cage aquaculture of species like sea bass can yield up to 1.5 tonnes of fish from a 40 cubic-metre cage a year.

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