Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jul 1:
Odisha government, in partnership with Worldfish, a global aquaculture and genetic improvement organisation, has emabarked on an initiative that aims to improve fish production in the state by 20% within a year and double production within five years in the state with the introduction of Tilapia fish farming.
“A delegation from the Worldfish led by its Director Michael Phillips had made a presentation before the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on May 14 with a proposal to use the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) technology to enhance fish production in the state. The partnership will continue for a minimum period of five years,” said Secretary of the State Fisheries Department Bishnupada Sethi.
The major objective of the partnership is to improve the quality of fish seeds, good aquaculture practices through a number of actions like expansion of pons in the coastal area, formation of fish farm clusters in the rim of Chilika and providing international market linkage for Odisha fish.
The department also proposes to include fish in the overall nutrition plan of the state. The state’s per capita fish consumption, despite an increase from 9.13 kg per annum in 2012-13 to 9.40 kg per annum in 2013-14, remains below the national average (9.8kg per annum).
Odisha achieved a record growth of around 13 percent in fish production during 2014-15 with total production of 4.67 lakh tonne against 4.13 lakh tonne the previous year. In 2014-15, the export of sea food products was of the order of Rs 2,300 crores.
The state has an area of 1.21 lakh sunder tanks and ponds, 1.97 lakh hectare of reservoirs, 1.71 lakh hectare of rivers and canals, 32,587 hectare of cultivable brackish area, three lakh hectares of estuaries, brackish water and backwater area, besides the Chilka lake spread over 93,000 hectares, where fish farming can be taken up in a big way.
The state’s 485-km long coastline helps the cause too. The state government aims to double fish production in the next five years with proper utilization of these resources.
The state, which produced 4.67 lakh metric tonnes of fish in 2014-15, has a target of enhancing it by 20 per cent in the coming year. But it needs to boost the production further to meet the state’s demand for fish. The state falls short by one lakh metric tonnes of fish every year, and procures fish from other states to meet the market demand.
The Tilapia, world’s second most popular fish, could help bridge this gap due to its high breed rate in warm climate. It also has enormous economic benefits apart from nutritional benefits. The protein-rich fish with low fat content is popularly known as ‘aquatic chicken’ because of its high nutrition values and ease of breeding.
Tilapia farming test, at present, is being carried out on an experimental basis on one acre at the Central Institute of Fresh Aquaculture (CIFA) at Kausalayaganga on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. Breeding and culture are being carried out by procuring the Chitralata variety of Tilapia from Bangkok. A hatchery has also been set up there.
Even though this variety of fish was first introduced in the country way back in 1952, it was not accepted well due to the prolific breeding of the species resulting in overpopulation and stunted growth of other fish species.
While the government is ecstatic about the possible boost in fish production, environmentalists have expressed concern over the impact of Tilapia farming on the grounds of environment and hygiene. They apprehend that intensive and unregulated Tilapia farming may cause pollution and damage the eco-system.
“The government should carefully study Tilapia farming in a controlled environment as genetically modified crops have shown an adverse impact on health and hygiene in the past. If the experiment results are satisfactory on the environment, hygiene and nutritional parameters, the government may go for large-scale culture of the fish,” advised Environmentalist Dr SN Patra.