Glimpse of Indian Fisheries::By:Shyamal C.S. Das
Glimpse of Indian Fisheries
By:Shyamal C.S. Das
ishes are cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates which breathe by means of pharyngeal gills, balancing and propelling themselves by means of fins. Fishes exhibits the enormous diversity in shapes, size, and in the habitat they occupy ranging from the Antarctic icecap to hot spring as well as Fresh to saline waters which constitute almost half of the total numbers of vertebrates. It is believed out of 61,259 species of vertebrates recognized world over, 30,700 are fish species. The smallest fish, Paedocypris progenetica, discovered in forest swamps on the Indonesian island of Sumatra is only 7.9 mm in length belongs to carp family, while, the whale shark, Rhincodon typus is the biggest fish of the world which often grows to 45 feet in length and 15 tons in weight. Global Survey emphasized that there could be at least 5,000 species of fish more to be discovered. About 2500 species of fish are found in Indian waters. The Indian mackerel, Rastrelliger kanagurta, is the national fish of India and the Ganges River Dolphin, Platanista gangetica ganetica, locally known as ‘Susu’ is the National Aquatic Animal of India. Honourable Prime Minister declared the animal as National Aquatic Animal on 5th October, 2009 and on 10th May 2010; a formal notification was issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
In the “Bhagvat Gita” there is a reference to “fish” (Chapter 10. Stanza 31, line 2) in the lines (“Jhashanam Makrshachasmi Srotasamsmi Janhavi”) according to which Lord Krishna, explaining to Arjuna on his supremacy over all the creatures and creations, tells that among fish, He is ‘Magar’( Crocodile) and among the river He is the ‘Janhavi’ or the Ganga. In the Hindu epic “Ramayana” there are interesting references to fish in water too. Minakshi (Fish-eye) is a popular epithet used to describe a woman with beautiful eye. There is reference to pet-fish named ‘Kartick’ and ‘Ganesh’ to which the boy hero, Rama was sentimentally attached in the ‘Ramer Sumati’ a novel in bengali written by Sri Sarat Chandra Chottopadhya. Fish is one of the first form of evolutionarily higher life appear in water and is among the earliest vertebrates. It is therefore, regarded as one of the nidhis (treasures) of the water. The occurrence of fish in India is dates back to three millennium B.C. They have been obtained from the excavations at Mohenjodero and Horappa of the Indus Valley civilisation (2500 B.C to 1500 B.C).
India is blessed with huge aquatic resources with 29,000 km of rivers (14 major rivers, 44 medium rivers and innumerable small rivers), 0.3 million ha of estuaries, 0.9 million ha of backwater and lagoons, 3.25 million ha of reservoirs, 0.2 million ha of flood plain wetlands, 0.72 million ha of upland lakes and 2.02 million km2 area of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surrounding the sea with 8129 km of coast line including Andaman and Nicobar Island. The NE States and Western Ghats of India are considered as global hot-spots in terms of fish biodiversity.
Fishery is a State subject and as such the primary responsibility for fisheries development remains with the State Governments. The major thrust in fisheries development has been focused on optimizing production and productivity, augmenting export of fishery products, generating employment and improving welfare of fishermen and their socio-economic status. Indian fisheries occupy the 2nd position (8.0 million tonnes) in the global fish production (after China) with an average annual growth rate of 4.7% (3.2 % in marine sector and 6.2% in Inland sector) contributing 1.10% to the total GDP and 5.3 % to the Agricultural GDP. About 54% people of India are consuming fish as a source of animal protein. The sector engages 14 million people at the primary level, and is earning Rs. 10,048 corers in 2010-11. Fisheries is a sun rise sector where fish consumption has shown a continuous increasing trend assuming greater importance about wholesome diets, due to its high quality protein, omega-3 fatty acid and micronutrient contents.
There are many threats to the fish diversity like habitat alteration, over- exploitation, aquatic pollution, illegal fishing, impact of exotic fishes, diseases, harmful algal blooms, global warming and climate change, construction of dams, etc. It is a great concern for us, since this sector occupies a very important place in the socio-economic development of the country. It has been recognized as a powerful income and employment generator as it stimulates growth of a number of subsidiary industries, and is a source of cheap and nutritious foods besides being a foreign exchange. Most importantly, it is the source of livelihood for a large section of economically backward population of the country. Conservation (in situ or ex situ) and management are the two buzz words for the time being. One of the innovating approaches to fish conservation is declaration of “State Fish” which was adopted for the first in India at NBFGR (National Bureau of Fish Genetic Research, Lucknow) during 2007 by Dr. W. S. Lakra. 16 States (Table 1) of the country became the partners with NBFGR in developing strategies for the conservation of their selected “state fish” to achieve the real time conservation success.
Table 1: The fishes adopted by different states as State Fish
Since dawn of time, fish as a food is consumed by many animal species including human being. Animal proteins are generally superior to the plant proteins and fish is one of the cheapest sources. Fish serves as a health-food for the affluent world owing to the fish oil which is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are important in treatment of arthrosclerosis, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other diseases. Generally, fish is good source of vitamin B complex and the species with good amount of liver oil are good sources of vitamin A and D. Fish is a good source of mineral like calcium, phosphorus, copper etc. Some fishes like singhi, magur, koi, murrels etc have therapeutic properties. Some fishes like Gambusia affinis and Aplocheilus panchax are in use indirectly to control malaria since as these fishes prey on mosquito larvae.
Fish meat is soft, easy to cook and more easily digested than meat, so even young children can be fed contributing to improve the nutrient intake in the body. In this context, it is essential to prioritize fish species for commercial exploitation which will provide information useful for effective marketing of fish and enable the fishermen and aquaculture industry people to get proper price in sustainable manner. Therefore, “GROW FISH, GROW WITH FISH”.
Some of the significant achievements made by Indian fisheries during last few decades are following:
Apart from these, technologies have been developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for suitable craft and gear development, management of inland, brackishwater, marine and coldwater fishery resources; inland, brackishwater and marine fish and shellfish culture technologies. Improvements have been made in fish feed production technology. The harvest and post-harvest technology, value addition etc are being popularized and implemented through regular interactions with user agencies, by imparting training, short-term courses, consultancies and frontline demonstrations. The proactive approach of large scale demonstrations of carp culture technology throughout the country had tremendous impact on freshwater fish production with national average in pond production of 3 t/ha/year with total fish production of 3.5 million t from freshwater aquaculture. The technology of high density carp seed pond rearing has resulted in annual fish seed production of 24000 million fry. Similarly, with the introduction of trawlers, purse seines and improved gear technologies, and scientific management of resources, marine fish catches have reached to the tune of 3 million tones.
The ICAR has also taken up some challenging issues like impact of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture, vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation measures. Research on water budgeting in inland aquaculture has been initiated. Open sea cage farming of fishes and lobsters, hatchery production and pond production of shrimp and Asian Seabass is being demonstrated at several places of east and west coast of India. Feeds for different life stages of carps, shrimp and seabass has been developed, transferred to private entrepreneurs for commercial production.
About the author:Shyamal C.S. Das , ARS, is a Scientist at the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute(Ministry of Agriculture, ICAR, Govt. of India) 24- Panna Lal Road, Allahabad-211002 (U. P)Tel.(off.): 0532-2461529, Fax: 0532-2460531/Mobile:91 8756056892/e.mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
I.CAR (2011). Handbook of Fisheries an Aquaculture
2.Jhingran, V.G (1991). Fish and Fisheries of India
3. ICAR Website (www.icar.org.in)
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