Fish 379th most traded product globally

55-kg catfish                                                         Fisherman’s Paradise

  • Arunachal ornamental fish awaits policy to be an industry

Beyond the Horizon

By Pradeep Kumar

A huge catfish or vandu  was caught by four fishermen, on 08.08.21 from barely 700 metre from where N2 at Jeffreys Bay crosses of Gamtoos River, known as ‘fish inland’ or ‘Fisherman’s Paradise’ in Eattern Cap Province of South Africa.

Many large fish species are found in ‘fish inland’, namely small spotted grunterm (15 varieties), Japanese meager (10 varieties), leerfish (7 varieties), common seabream (4 varieties), javelin grunter, copper shark, cape stumpnose bluefish and catfish.

The catfish or vundu or sampa or cur or lenda or certa (Heterobranchus longifilis) is a species found widely in rivers and other freshwater habitats and largest true freshwater fish in Southen Africa, reaching up to 1.5 m  in length and 55-kg ( in weight).  Gamtoos River, formed by confluence of Kouga Goot Rivers and Kouga tributary Baviaanskloof, is approximately 645-km-long with a catchment area of 34,635 sqkm.

Fishing in India is a major industry employing 14.5 million people. India ranks 2nd in aquaculture and 3rd in fisheries production. Fish industry contributes to 1.07% of India’s total GDP by generating export earnings of Rs 334.41 billion, according to National Fisheries Development Board. In 2021 fiscal year, India exported fish and fishery products worth over Rs 441 billion while freshwater fishing consists of 55% of total fish production.

According to Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, fish production increased from 7.52 lakh tonnes in 1950–51 to 125.90 lakh tonnes in 2018–19, a 17 times increase. However, Koyilandry harbor in Kerala having longest breakwater is largest fishing harbour in Asia.

India had 7,516-km of marine coastline, 3,827 fishing villages and 1,914 traditional fish landing centers. India’s fresh water resources consist of 1,95,210-km of rivers and canals, 2.9 million hectares of minor and major reservoirs, 2.4 million hectares of ponds and  lakes and about 0.8 million hectares of flood plain wetland and water bodies.

On Feb 07, 2020,  hinting that about 40.5 million people of India are involved in fisheries sector, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan had called for efforts to attract foreign direct investment to increase global seafood trade from  present 4.1% to 6.7% by 2030 by increasing production, value addition and diversification. Kochi also hosts Asia’s largest seafood fairs and last time 0ver 1,500 delegates, including 50 rom 12 foreign countries, had deliberated on policies and actionable roadmaps to achieve the country’s marine products export target of US$10 billion by 2022.

International trade is a driving force behind economic growth, and two so-called “mega-regional” trade deals are dominating public debate on the issue: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But there are around 420 regional trade agreements already in force around the world, according to World Trade Organization. Although all are not free trade agreements (FTAs), they still shape global trade.

Ornamental Fish: India’s domestic ornamental fish industry is Rs 300 crore worth. India exported ornamental fish worth Rs 9.5 crore in 2017, a 40% increase from previous year.

In Arunachal Pradesh majority of fish species 36  (33.3 %) of total 108 cold water fish species are ornamental, followed by 32 species (29.6 %) are ornamental with  food value, according to S.D. Gurumayum1 and Lakpa Tamang. The prices of native ornamental fishes go up to Rs 50 per piece across the domestic market (2007). If ornamental fish farming to meet high market demands could be propagated, it could be a sustainable income source of many households. Moreover, the state criss-crossed by many rivers and rivulets offer enough scopes for fishery sports and angling.

Arunachalees are basically fishitarians, but large varieties of fish in huge quantities brought from outside, including Andhra Pradesh, flood local markets of the state. This Himalayan state criss-crossed by numerous perennial rivers and streams besides having large number of lakes offers huge scopes for fisheries and aquaculture cultivation.

But ‘why’ has few unanswered answers? 1st, Arunachalees are yet to realize the potential of fish though many are cultivators. 2nd, fish could generate huge employment opportunities to serve as a boon for the state facing the unemployment menace. 3rd, aquariums commonly found in Indian houses for decoration and religious reasons is an alluring business with Arunachal boasting for large varieties of ornamental fishes.

Hindus consider fish (Matsya) very lucky as the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu as per Puranas to ensure the continuity of life on the earth following the great floods and also to rescue the Vedas and sacred texts from the demon Hayagriva. The same aspect of Hinduism could also create large jobs to keep the interested youths engaged round the year by offering decent ways to earn livelihood. Why this has not been promoted by the lawmakers and policy makers of the state is intriguing!

Fisheries and aquaculture is important food production sector providing nutritional security, livelihood support and gainful employment to more than 14 million people and contributing to agricultural exports. Total fish production during 2017-18 was estimated 12.60 million metric tonnes, constituting about 6.3% of global fish production. More than 50 types of fish and shellfish products are exported to 75 nations. Fish and fish products have emerged as largest group in agricultural exports with 13.77 lakh tones worth Rs. 45,106.89 crore.

Keeping in view of potential fisheries resources in aquaculture, inland fisheries, coastal & marine fisheries and substantial scope of export augmentation, the fisheries division of department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries of Union Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Ministry, has been implementing various schemes under “Blue Revolution Scheme” with Rs. 3000 crore allocation for 2015-16 to 2019-20 to improve livelihood of fishers. The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs had approved setting up of a dedicated Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) worth Rs.7,522 crore on 23.10.18 to develop infrastructures, like  fishing harbours, fish landing centres, fish seed farms, fish feed mills, plants, setting up of disease diagnostic and aquatic quarantine facilities, creation of cold chain infrastructure facilities such as ice plants, cold storage, fish transport facilities, fish processing units, fish markets, etc.

But, ornamental fishes or ‘live jewels’ are most exciting and probably most cheerful living creatures. Aquarium has emerged as second most popular hobby next to photography. Aquarium is popular and kept in public places and households throughout the world while trading of ornamental fish species has become a lucrative business, according to Journal of Aquaculture Research & Development.

Global annual turnover of ornamental fish trade now is about $ 10 billion with a growth rate of 6% per annum. Although India’s contribution to the global ornamental fish trade is meager (<1%) now, but India has a great potential to raise this export level to about Rs 150 crore annually, according to 2015 report on “Conservation and Management of Ornamental Fish Resources of North East India” of Biswas SP, Santosh Kumar Singh A, Das JN of life science department of Dibrugarh University.

The entire NE India is endowed with a vast expanse of fresh water habitats, mainly flood plain rivers, including mighty Brahmaputra and adjoining wetlands ( beels). Being in one of the highest precipitated zone in the world, hilly states of Arunachal, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya are having innumerable streams, lakes and a variety of aquatic habitats. The variety of micro-habitats, high diversity of biotic and abiotic components and suitable climatic condition have made NE as one of the world’s richest repository of ichthyofaunal resources. Moreover, floodplain lakes (beels) are other potential fishery resources in the NE offer tremendous scope for both culture and capture fisheries. Vishwanath reported 296 fish species from NE region, which is about 1/3rd of total freshwater fish species, found in Indian waters. However, Arunachal boasts of 157 varieties as recorded by Prof. D.N Das, RGU dean of zoology department.

A team of scientists of Zoological Survey of India’s Arunachal Pradesh regional centre Lakpa Tamang and Bikrmajit Singh had discovered a new fish species from Lohit River in Walong in remote Anjaw district in 2016. Belonging to genus Physoschistura, they named it Physoschistura walongensis. The need of the hour is a pragmatic policy with forward and backward market linkage.

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