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Bengal to export its variety of fishes abroad

Bengal to export its variety of fishes abroad

By Biswamoy Mukherjee


Kolkata, May 8 (UNI) With an eye on exporting an array of fishes to various foreign countries, including Dubai, Japan and China, West Bengal has categorized fisheries sector as a 'sunrise sector', thereby providing investment opportunities in areas of fish production, fish exports, fish processing and fish tourism.

State Fisheries Department has got a whopping order of around Rs 900 crore to export the species to these countries.

'This is for the first time that the fisheries department has taken up such a unique initiative that will not only create a market for Bengal’s fishes in the foreign countries, but also help develop the financial condition of the state’s fishermen, ' according to State Fisheries Minister Chandranath Sinha.

' To meet the ongoing demands of fishers in the international market, the department is setting up processing units with modern facilities at Nalban in Salt Lake and at Henry Island in South 24-Parganas, ' he added.

The fishes that would be exported to the foreign countries will be processed and packed in these units.

The State Fisheries Development Corporation has increased the fish production in the state by a record margin, and pisciculture is being carried out in most of the stated-owned ponds and water bodies.

The department has also chalked out plans on how to engage more unemployed rural youth and women in pisciculture through the formation of various self-help groups in the villages.

'The state Fisheries department has already been distributing fingerlings to people at free of cost, ' he said adding, ' The Fisheries department is providing technical assistance to the villagers in this regard. '

Bengal's beloved Hilsa fish will soon become the first Indian fish to get legal protection as West Bengal

Fisheries Department is planning on introducing laws that will make it illegal to catch, buy and sell Hilsa that weighs under 500 gm.

Known as the “King of fishes”, an organically bred hilsa fish can weigh up to 2.5 kilos but finding one of that weight is becoming increasingly difficult. In order to protect the fish, the fisheries department is will put stringent measures in places under Cr PC and IPC that will stop the distribution of those fish that weigh under 500 gm.

Mr Sinha, said, “ The proposal was floated at a recent meeting at the fisheries department. We will soon approach the state home department to start the process of bringing provisions under Cr Pc and IPC in this regard. ”

Currently, the fisheries department doesn’t have the power to arrest or impose fines on the catching and distribution of small hilsa in Bengal.

However, there are some regulations in place including catching Hilsa during pre-monsoon and post-monsoon season when the fish migrates to the Hooghly river from the sea for laying eggs.

Officials in the fisheries department explained that the need for tough legislation was now more urgent than ever.

One official spoke about the river, before 1972 – that saw the commissioning of the Farakka Barrage – where hilsa provided a lucrative livelihood for fishermen in mid-stretch of the river, generating employment for thousands of fishermen from not just Bengal, but also Bihar and UP.

All this has changed. The fragmentation of the river has blocked the migration of the mature fisher, from sea to river for breeding and also the downstream igration of their progeny into the sea. Consequently, hilsa fishery upstream has collapsed.

Assessment of the production trends of hilsa from 1961 to 2013 in the middle stretch of the Ganga by Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI) revealed a significant decline in the annual average production from 36 ton to 0.9 ton.

Findings by CIFRI reveal that during the period 1998-2012, the average catch of juvenile hilsa (2 to 20 gm) from the system was a staggering 85 ton per year.

Experts predict that saving even one per cent of these juveniles could enhance the hilsa production by 4000 ton per year.

Women from the Self-Help Groups in the Jangalmahal region would soon be initiated into cultivating Magur fish (catfish), which is a delicacy and hence, in high demand.

Under the initiative of the State Government, four hatcheries would be created for the purpose and to start with, women from the Self-Help Groups would be given magur hatchlings, according to the official sources here.

Within six to seven months, the hatchlings would grow big enough to be sold in markets, with each fish weighing 80 to 100 kg.

The fishes would be bought by the State Fisheries Development Corporation Limited of West Bengal, through which they would be released into the markets.

This initiative would lead to higher production of magur, which in turn would lead to lowering of prices, and generation of employment too in the Jangalmahal region. There are plants to export the fish to neighbouring States too.

Mystus gulio is a commercially important brackishwater catfish locally known as “nuna tengra”, which is an important small indigenous fish species (SIS) of the Sundarban delta.

It can tolerate a wide range of salinity and has high market demand with price ranging Rs 200-500 per kg.

Due to overexploitation and environmental degradation, availability of seeds from nature has been decreased.

In order to conserve the species, and promote scientific farming and diversified aquaculture,

Kakdwip Research Centre (KRC) of ICAR-Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) has developed a complete package comprising of homestead/ backyard hatchery technique and grow-out culture of this fish in brackish water system.

Breeding technology package of Mystus gulio in backyard hatchery system comprises of broodstock development, maturity assessment, induction of spawning, incubation and hatching of eggs, and larval rearing in brackishwater environment.

Total cost of production of a 30-day old seed is only Re. 0.30 and it hasa market selling price of Re 1, which is economically lucrative. Cost effective backyard hatchery operation requires less capital and less labour. The woman member of a family can easily manage these less cumbersome and easy activities.

A small farmer with a minimum operational cost of Rs 20000 can easily earn Rs 42000 in a breeding season of six months. Many rural people, small and marginal farmers may get employment through production and supply of seeds.

Availability of large number of hatchery produced seeds will reduce the dependence on natural resource, and thus will promote scientific farming of this species.

Kakdwip research centre of ICAR-CIBA also conducted a successful culture demonstration trial of this species in brackishwater pond for the first time with hatchery produced seeds.

For this trial, 35-day old hatchery produced seeds (40.15 mm/ 0.85 g) were stocked at 10 nos./m 2 and fed with nuna tengra feed developed by KRC of CIBA @8-5 per cent of biomass. In a 6-month of culture period, fish attained size of 40 to 60 g with the production of 1.5 to 2.0 ton/ha. Cost of production was around Rs. 80-90/ kg and it had a ready market of minimum Rs. 250-300/ kg, which is economically lucrative.

High density farming in small backyard pond (300 to 500 m 2 ) will be ideal for farming. To popularize the seed production and hatchery technology of nuna tengra among farmers, the Harvest-cum- Farmers Interaction Meet is being conducted recently in presence of 50 farmers at Kakdwip Research Centre of ICAR-CIBA in south 24 parganas district.

Dr. K K Vijayan, Director of ICAR-CIBA mentioned that cost-effective technology of hatchery seed production and farming will have impact on brackishwater aquaculture diversification and promotion of make- in India technology for employment generation and nutritional security of small and marginal farmers of costal states like West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh where this species is naturally available.

The team of scientists involved in these research activities includes Dr. Prem Kumar, Dr.Gouranga

A new variety of fish is soon going to have its way to Bengali kitchen. Common Carp or American Rohu has been genetically modified by scientists of Fisheries Research and Information Centre, Bangalore to get a new variety of fish called Amur. It is basically a new breed of Common Carp.

State Fisheries department along with Haldia Panchayat Samiti has launched a pilot project for cultivation of Amur fish. Haldia Panchayat Samity is providing financial assistance under its ATMA Project.

Four fishermen have been roped in for the project. They have been given baby Amur fish on Friday. They have been provided information regarding the procedure of cultivating this fish.

The fisherman has been advised by Haldia Block Development Officer

Rajarshi Nath and president of Haldia Panchayat Samiti Khukumani Sahu

to work in close proximity with the officials of state fisheries department.

Giving out information regarding the genetic modification of Common Carp to Amur, Suman Sahu of State Fisheries Department said that the new fish has become slim and has come out in a new avatar.

At present, the problem of common carp or American rohu is that they sexually mature faster (within a span of 6 months) and before they acquire a size that could make them commercially viable, they produce eggs. Thus they grow in number as a result; there is a shortage of food and space for them to grow properly.

So scientists have found a way to arrest the sexual maturity of common carp so that they can grow in a proper manner and thus Amur is created

Mr Sinha recently said the government has framed West Bengal Fisheries Investment Policy -2015 for micro, small, medium and large enterprises in fisheries sector, which focuses on extending fiscal incentives for setting up of new micro, small, medium and large enterprises.

“This will propel the growth of the sector as a whole and encourage the development of these enterprises even in the least developed areas of the state, ” Mr Sinha said.

He said, ' Since West Bengal accounted for 20 per cent of the country’s total fish production at 16.71 lakh metric ton in 2016 and total exports of marine products was $ 530.91 million implying 11.33 per cent of the total marine products exports worth $ 4687.94 million from India in 2016, we can consider enhancing both production, processing and exports to fetch more revenue for the state. '

“We are working closely with the National Fisheries Board to this end, ”

Mr Sinha said adding that the state has tied up with the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to attract investment in fisheries sector and promote it as a sunrise sector. Both ICC and the state government have joined hands in organizing Bengal Fish Fest, an initiative to attract investment in the state fishery sector.

Director of West Bengal State Fisheries Board Soumyajit Das said, ' The state has carved out 810 large water bodies for fisheries, for which Rs 23 crore have been spent on providing fish food. '

The government will create an integrated fisheries zone, develop fishery estates, develop Sunderbans and Digha as special fishery zones, promote farming of large fish and provide land and associated legal documents to homeless fishermen as a part of integrated development and management of fisheries, he added.

Mr Das said the state was poised to produce more than 18 lakh metric tonne fish in FY 17 of which 75 per cent was fresh water and 25 per cent brackish water.

Although crab, shrimp and fresh water prawn exports were on the rise, Vietnam was emerging as a close competitor to India, especially in the area of tiger prawn, he informed.

'Although India was a major importer of Hilsa from Bangladesh, Bangladesh was emerging as a new export market for India besides the conventional markets of Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, UAE and parts of Europe, ' he said.

'Bengal fisheries and aquaculture is an important sector of food production, providing nutritional security to the food basket, contributing to the agricultural exports and engaging about 14 million people in different activities, ' he stated.

With diverse resources ranging from deep seas to lakes in the mountains and more than 10% of the global biodiversity in terms of fish and shellfish species, the country has shown continuous and sustained increments in fish production since independence. Constituting about 4.4 per cent of the global fish production, the sector contributes to 1.1 per cent of the GDP and 4.7 per cent of the agricultural GDP.

The total fish production of 6.57 million metric tonnes presently has nearly 55 per cent contribution from the inland sector and nearly the same from culture fisheries. Paradigm shifts in terms of increasing contributions from inland sector and further from aquaculture are significations over the years.

With high growth rates, the different facets of marine fisheries, coastal aquaculture, inland fisheries, freshwater aquaculture, coldwater fisheries to food, health, economy, exports, employment and tourism of the country.

The country has 429 Fish Farmers Development Agencies (FFDAs) and 39 Brackishwater Fish Farms Development Agencies (BFDAs) for promoting freshwater and coastal aquaculture. The annual carp seed production is to the tune of 20 billion and that of shrimp about 8 billion, with increasing diversification in the recent past.

Along with food fish culture, ornamental fish culture and high value fish farming are gaining importance in the recent past. With over 2.4 lakh fishing crafts operating in the coast, six major fishing harbours, 40 minor fishing harbours and 151 landing centres are functioning to cater to the needs of over 3.5 million fisherfolk.

Fish and fish products have presently emerged as the largest group in agricultural exports of India, with 5.2 lakh tonnes in terms of quantity and Rs.7,200 crores in value.

This accounts for around 3 per cent of the total exports of the country and nearly 20 per cent of the agricultural exports. More than 50 different types of fish and shellfish products are exported to 75 countries around the world.

The Fisheries Department of the then Government of West Bengal was first set up in the year 1911.

Thereafter, on the recommendation of the Bengal Retrenchment Committee, the Department was abolished in the year 1923.

The Department was again revived in the year 1942 inasmuch as it was felt necessary to cope up with the growing needs for increase in production of fish by way of exploiting all the available impounded water resources in the then undivided Bengal primarily for two reasons: Love of fish in the diet for every Bengali family and increase in population.

After the revival of the Department in the year 1942, it has been functioning continuously since then.

The scope of activities of the Department had been expanding gradually

and since the beginning of the first five year plan increasing number of schemes are being taken up for development of Pisciculture in West Bengal with the end of not only attaining self-sufficiency in regard to the production of fish in the state but also exploring possibilities for requirement of fish and fish products across the country and abroad.

Because of the involvement of the Department in multi-directional fishery related activities, it has been renamed as the Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Resources and Fishing Harbours (hereinafter referred to as the Department) in May, 2001.

UNI BM SJC

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