The State Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry’s Cage Culture Technology Demonstration Project is set to be launched in six major reservoirs by the end of May.
This is done solely to encourage fishermen and farmers to take up ‘Cage Culture’ on their own.
At the initial stage, two varieties of fish - namely, pangasius and tilapia will be grown in these six reservoirs using the cage culture method. The method is popular in countries like Vietnam, China and Cambodia and the State of Jharkhand has adopted this method successfully in recent years.
Both the fish varieties chosen by the fisheries department are known for their low fat content and high levels of protein.
This comes after state government officials visited Jharkhand and decided to opt for cage culture in promoting fish in Telangana.
Under the project, the fish will be grown in cages of 6x4x4 meters. Two batteries of cages will be placed in each reservoir and each battery will consist of 6 cages. Two of them will be nursery cages and four will be grow-out cages.
Koilsagar (Mahabubnagar), Pocharam (Medak), Nizamsagar and Sri Ram Sagar in Nizamabad district, Kadem reservoir (Adilabad) and Lower Maneru Dam (Karimnagar) are the reservoirs identified for the demonstration project.
As per an estimate, the project will cost $262,000 (Rs 167.56 lakh). Of which, the state government will fund $157,000 (Rs 100.56 lakh) and the remaining $105,000 (Rs 67 lakh) subsidy will be released by the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB).
The government also sent 167 farmers to Chandil reservoir in Jharkhand as part of the ‘Exposure visit’, which was also funded by NFDB. RVR & Co of Bengaluru will take up the demo project at Lower Maneru, Nizamsagar, SRSP and Kadem and Varanasi-based Dass and Kumar’s will execute the project at Pocharam and Koilsagar reservoirs.
Traditional fish species like rohuor bochchelu cannot be grown in the cage farming method, as they cannot survive in highly confined spaces.
The two species identified for the project are local to India and the productivity in this method will be considerably higher than traditional fish farming, an official said.
The reservoirs of India have a combined surface area of 3.25 million hectares (ha), mostly in the tropical zone, which makes them the country's most important inland water resource, with huge untapped potential.
The prime objective of cage culture discussed here is to rear fingerlings measuring >100 millimetres (mm) in length, especially carp, for stocking reservoirs. The manual discusses various aspects of cage culture from site selection to its economic benefits.
Cage culture is an alternative to inland and brackish water farming, whereby existing water resources are used to increase fish and shellfish production, and the fish are enclosed in a cage allowing the water to pass freely between the fish.
Using technology developed by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), various state governments are likely to implement the method in a phased manner to build confidence among the fisher folk, so that it can be used as a livelihood opportunity to increase their income. Though open sea cage culture technology is a relatively recent activity in India, it is prevalent in other Asian countries.
While lobster, Asian seabass, mullets, cobia and pearl spot have been successfully harvested by CMFRI in various coastal waters in India, at present the Vizag centre of CMFRI is maintaining brood stocks of orange spotted grouper, Indian pompano, snappers and golden trevally in cages that have all shown good growth and maturation.
Under this procedure, cage culture fish rearing is done in an enclosed area in a natural aquatic environment where the water continuously flows and debris doesn't accumulate, which is why there is no pollution or ammonia deposition as in the case of stagnant and low density water ponds.
The young fish and other aquatic species are kept, fed and grown to marketable size in these cages, which are made of high density polyethylene. Cage farming is in an infancy stage now, but the prospects for commercial exploitation are so good that we are planning to double the number of cages soon as well as expand to other neighboring areas.
At the end of the culture period, which ranges from six to eight months, three to five tonnes of fish are produced just from one cage.
In July 2014, the cage farming technique was also taken up to great success in Visakhapatnam and other coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh on an experimental basis by scientists of the Visakhapatnam Regional Centre of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI).
In Krishna district (Nagailanka) and Narsapuram (West Godavari), cage farming has been taken up in collaboration with fishermen, while in Vizag the cages in the sea along RK Beach are controlled by the CMFRI. There are six cages in Krishna, 10 in West Godavari and eight in Vizag district of AP.
The cage fish farming project is a project funded by the National Mission for Protein Supplement Scheme. Cage farming also known as intensive fish farming system has proved successful in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Kerala states. Harvest of fish or lobster in cages is made very easy compared to that in ponds. Cages can be towed to a convenient place and harvest can be carried out.
Also based on demand, partial or full harvest can be done. In 2011, Himachal Pradesh turned to cage culture fishing. Ram Subhag Singh, Secretary (Agriculture and Fisheries) said, the cages made of wood or steel frames and covered with mesh or nets are kept immersed in natural water bodies.
The culture of biotic organisms such as fish fry to fingerlings, fingerlings to table size fish and table size to marketable size can easily be done by holding them in captivity for a specific purpose. The cages are enclosed from all sides. There is an opening at the top to provide food. Cage farming in India was started in May 2007.