Towards a blue revolution

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
13 February 2007, at 12:00am

SRI LANKA - Aquaculture has rapidly developed in freshwater environments, mainly in Asia, over the last two and half decades. Today, China is the leading producer in freshwater aquaculture in Asia and in the world. It alone provides 78 percent of the total Asian freshwater aquaculture production and 74 percent of the world total.

Inland aquaculture in India

Over the past decade the production in other Asian countries also increased rapidly. Vietnam achieved the highest growth rate (15 percent), Bangladesh (13 percent), and Thailand (9 percent).

This increase in freshwater fish production is mainly attributable to expansion in production areas and improvements in yield, associated with the intensification of aquaculture practices.

Countries in the South and South-East Asia are endowed with inland water bodies, and numerous fish species, and therefore they have an enormous potential for the freshwater aquaculture production contributing to food security, nutrition, employment generation, and rural poverty alleviation.

Recognising these positive elements, successive Sri Lankan governments had given high priority to aquaculture development in its short and medium-term plans.

It was the introduction of exotic tilapias into Sri Lanka's shallow and highly productive perennial reservoirs in the 1950s that led to the establishment of an artisanal fishery however. Yields from this fishery increased progressively reaching 40,000 mt in 1989 with 90 percent of production originating from only 74 major reservoirs.

However, in 2005 the production slumped down to 32,830 mt.

It is estimated that in Sri Lanka's aquaculture production, only 10 percent of its potential has been exploited.

There is vast potential for freshwater aquaculture production in the country from irrigation systems, and from open water areas, which consists of lakes, reservoirs, rivers and swamp.

What went wrong? One of the reasons often quoted is the four-year withdrawal of state patronage from late 1980s. Although accurate statistics are not available, it is said that, since then, there had been a dramatic decline in the catch of many of the larger indigenous species.

Attempts to revitalise the programme continue to be constrained mainly by poor seed availability.

No private sector production or market currently exists and most of the production facilities have reverted to a more lucrative ornamental export industry. This opportunity cost suggests that under current conditions, there is a low likelihood of private sector uptake of food-fish seed production

If we take a look at our neighbour - India, we can learn a few good lessons on how to handle the development of freshwater aquaculture. Today, India is pushing ahead with, what they call -"a Blue Revolution", the rapid increase of fish production in small ponds and water bodies which is becoming a boon to small farmers, the nation's nutrition and its gross domestic product. Their freshwater aquaculture is growing at a healthy 6 percent a year.

Source: Daily News