Inland Aquaculture and Blue Revolution in India

In last two decades, the inland aquaculture has emerged as a fast-growing enterprise and a viable alternative to the declining capture fisheries in India.

What is Blue Revolution?

The Blue Revolution envisages transformation of the fisheries sector with increased investment, better training and development of infrastructure on the lines of white revolution which transformed India’s dairy sector.

Why growth has eluded in Marine and Capture fisheries?

In marine fisheries and capture fisheries, the growth has eluded because of many reasons. One reason is that the marine fishing activity remains confined to coastal waters, leaving most part of the sprawling exclusive economic zone – measuring 2.02 million sq km – under explored. The narrow coastal belt of around 50 metres from the seashore is being over-tapped by traditional fisher folk, causing considerable depletion of fish stock. Though the Motorised fishing vessels, which can operate beyond this zone, now account for about 85 per cent of the total marine fish catch, yet the deep-sea fishing activity remains rather low owing to the inadequacy of specialised deep-sea fishing vessels. Thus, if we want to grow marine fish production, we need to input huge investments in the deep sea fishing.

On the other hand, potential of inland aquaculture is still untapped in India; despite the fact that out of the current 10 million tonnes total fish production; the inland fisheries account for 56% while marine fisheries for 34%. Given that India has large number of water bodies, reservoirs, lakes, ponds etc. the Inland aquaculture holds the key to the blue revolution in the country.

A small fraction of farmers are currently practicing the Inland aquaculture in some states such as Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana etc. and virtually blue revolution is happening. By increasing the coverage of water area and the productivity of existing water bodies by 50 per cent, the total production from aquaculture could be doubled. However, there are some critical gaps that need to be addressed to achieve blue revolution in true terms. These are as follows:

Species Diversification

Bulk of inland aquaculture production in India comprises three major Indian fishes viz. rohu, catla and mrigal. Thus, diversification is badly needed for efficient growth.  Today, India is second largest producer of fish through aquaculture next to China but the number of cultured species is less than 10 as against over 100 of China. Species diversity is one area which is yet not explored and has tremendous potential to increase production. There are a handful of farmers in the country who trying to experiment with exotic fishes such as silver carp, grass carp and common carp. There are efforts being done to diversify the species mix in freshwater aquaculture by introducing high-value catfish like magur and freshwater prawns.

Weak linkages in R&D and Unscientific Management

Some other key issues include unscientific management of aquaculture; contamination of indigenous germplasm resources; poor yield optimization, problems in harvest and post-harvest operations, landing and berthing facilities for fishing vessels and issues in welfare of fish farmers. The weak linkages between research and development and fish farmers community; and weak multi-disciplinary approach are critical gaps that need to be addressed to tap the full potentials.

Policy Suggestions

Key policy suggestions are as follows:

  • Government must come out with a National Inland Fisheries Policy to provide support and strengthen inland fisheries sector.
  • Establishment of Fisheries Resources Centres on the lines of Krishi Vigyan Kendras to provide technical / educational support.
  • Involve Private sector, NGOs etc. In the development of this sector.
  • Streamline the schemes, rules and regulations.
  • Remove infrastructure bottlenecks and enhance marketing support.

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