Agriculture

National Institute Introduces a New Method to Rear Fishes in Brackish Waters

In Tamil Nadu, fish rearing has been generating an active response mainly because government schemes and expert advice are easily available for farmers.

K.K. Vijayan, director of Central Institute of Brackishwater Aqualture Institute, along with the fishermen. Credit: By special arrangement

Successful farming is an art of generating money with whatever resources are available on the farm. Agriculture is a revenue-generating work, and whatever crops or animals are grown on the farm, they should be able to get the farmer some income.

In Tamil Nadu, apart from poultry, recently, fish has been generating quite an active response mainly because government schemes and expert advice are easily available for the farmers.

Specifically, more than fresh fish, for those in brackish water in coastal areas, fish rearing is a promising revenue model. Unlike fresh water, brackish water is where sea water and fresh water meet and mix. The salinity in the water is quite high but much lower than sea water.

The Buckingam Canal on the outskirts of Chennai has been found to be an ideal spot for rearing brackish-water fish. In one such coastal village called Vennangupattu in Kanchipuram district, rearing sea baas fish in these waters is a revenue generating vocation.

The technical support and timely advise to these people are provided by the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aqualture Institute (CIBA- ICAR) in Chennai.

According to the K.K. Vijayan, director of the institute, in the present situation, where the government is focusing their efforts on doubling farmers’ income, this technology can easily provide a net return of Rs 4 lakh hectares in 200-250 days. Rural unemployed youth can be trained in groups in this type of fish production, even on a part-time basis of about four to five hours a day, enabling them to earn well.

The institute mobilised the fisher youth from the village and made a technological breakthrough, which enables round-the-year breeding of this fish variety that grows well in brackish water under captive conditions followed by farming.

“The technology is efficient in utilising the vast stretches of brackish water resources along coastal India for increased fish production, employment creation and income generation,” he says.

Skill development training has been provided as part of Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture (ARYA) partnering with the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) on cage designing, fabrication, installation, nursery rearing and farming of fishes in cages, subsequently facilitating them to form a self help group named A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Fish Producers Self Help Group, to take up cage farming in the district.

A three-tier model comprising nursery rearing, pre-grow out and grow out cages were taken up in a phased manner, according to Vijayan.

Sea bass cage farming. Credit: By special arrangement

Why was this particular fish breed selected? Vijayan explains, “Asian sea bass breed was chosen due to its growth potential, availability of seed and feed and higher market value.”

“The farming cycle began with stocking of fish fry (1 cm size) initially grown in the nursery cages for  45-60 days (7-8 cm size), and then transferred from nurseries to pre-grow-out cage. The 90-100 gms juveniles from the pre-grow cage were transferred to grow-out cages for further rearing. The fish were fed with our institute’s formulated indigenous feed (Rs 80/kg). The juveniles were grown to a marketable size of 900 g-1.25 kg in six months.”

A productivity of 460 kg can be realised in two partial harvests in one cycle. Two cycles of production can be harvested in a year. The production cost works out to Rs 190 per kg of fish and selling price was Rs 380 per kg, according to him.

The fish producers were linked to Tamil Nadu Fisheries Development Corporation, a state government body which procures fishes from producers, offering them a good price and marketing it through their outlets.

A harvest-cum-interaction meet was organised at the farming site. About 120 fishers, including fisherwomen and school children, participated in the event and witnessed the harvest. The revenue generated from the sale of fish produced was handed to the group during the meeting.

“People are not aware that this type of brackish water aquaculture is a multi-billion dollar enterprise in India with a production of 4.35 lakh tonnes from 1.31 lakh hectare of area. This sector is a major livelihood source for rural people. The water resources suitable for aquaculture do not compete with agriculture or drinking purpose,” says Vijayan.

For further details those interested can contact the  Director, ICAR-Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture, No. 75, Santhome High Road, Raja Annamalaipuram, Chennai 600 028. Email: [email protected][email protected], Phone: -044-24617523 (direct), 044-24618817, 24616948 and 24610565 (board).