Aquaculture is the fastest growing animal food producing sector, growing at a rate more than 6% annually. In 2014, the global aquaculture production was 73.8 million tones, with an estimated value of US$ 160.2 billion. The contribution of aquaculture to the global fish production was 44.1%. With the tremendous increase in demand for fish and stagnation or steady decrease in capture fish production, the importance of aquaculture is expected to increase in future. India is the second largest producer of fish from aquaculture with a production of 4.88 million tonnes during 2014-15, an increase of over 12 fold. The three Indian major carps, namely catla, rohu and mrigal contribute the bulk of production, followed by exotic carps and catfishes forming the second important group contributing to the remaining 25 to 30 percent.
Present Scenario of Freshwater Aquaculture in India:
Freshwater aquaculture in India evolved as a viable commercial farming practice form the level of traditionally backyard activity, over the last three decades, with considerable diversification in terms of species and systems. Average national production form still water ponds has increased form 0.6t/ha/year in 1974 to 2.9 t/ha/year at present, with several farmers even demonstrating production levels as high as 8-12 tonnes/ha/year. With huge natural resources like 2.42 million ha of ponds and tanks; 1.07 million ha of beels, jheels and derelict waters; 0.12 million km of canals; 3.15 million ha of reservoirs and 0.72 million ha of upland lakes that could be utilized for aquaculture purposes, India has excellent chances of doubling fish production in the next five years. Ponds and tanks are the prime resources for freshwater aquaculture, however, only about 0.8-0.9 million ha is used for aquaculture currently.
The freshwater aquaculture sector in India is slowly and steadily moving away from the Indian Major Carps (IMC) dominated scenario. Although IMC continues to be the largest cultivated species group, there are several new entrants in the culture sector. Alien or non indigenous species like Pangassius has shown tremendous growth in states like West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. Pangasianodon hypophthalmus, one of the swift growing catfishes was first introduced in India in the year 1995-1996 in the state of West Bengal. Initially farming was carried out in limited area in the states of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. This fish grows up to 1-1.5 kg over a span of one year. A minimum of 10-15 tonnes/hectare/year is harvested from the culture of this fish. Due to its fast growth and high production potential, farmers got attracted to culturing this species and within a short period, the production of pangassius increased to nearly five lakh tones in 2010. This unregulated increase and over production has led to a crash in prices and loss to farmers. Now the production has come down and still farm gate price has not improved has come down and still farm gate price has not improved and profit margins have come down drastically. Still the production in 2013-14 was nearly 3, 50, 000 tonnes. Another such non-indigenous species that is being widely cultured in India include pacu, tilapia and vannamei shrimp. Pacu, a native of South America, was clandestinely introduced in India during 2003 and 2004 from Bangladesh. In India the fish is locally known as ‘rupchanda’. It is estimated that nearly one lakh tones of pacu is produced in India form states like West Bengal, AP, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, and Tripura and UP. Pacu is a fast growing fish and attains 800-900g within six months. It is hardy species and tolerates wide ranges of water quality parameters. The Government of India is yet to approve this fish for introduction into the country for aquaculture purpose. Tilapia is another alien spices widely cultured in India. The Government of India has permitted the aquaculture of nile tilapia in 2011, prescribing certain guidelines as a part of diversification of species for increasing overall fish production levels of the country. As this fish represents lower level in food chain, its culture would be economical and eco- friendly. As per the guidelines, farming of only mono-sex male/ sterile is permitted and species recommended is Nile tilapia or improved strains like GIFT tilapia.
Freshwater Aquaculture Research
The focus of freshwater aquaculture research in the country has been on few important aspects like species and system diversification, soil and water quality management, quality seed production, genomics and genetic improvement, low cost feed development using locally available ingredients, disease surveillance, health management and farm mechanization and automation.
Source : Aqua Aquaria India