No Fishy Business

No Fishy Business

5 March 2012
Kashmir Life
Inam ul Haq

Srinagar: Kaleem Ahmad Bandey of Mandujan village of district Shopian would work as a labourer for more than nine months a year in sweltering Jammu’s fruit mandi 300 kilometres from his home. However, an exotic sport fish and crystal clear fresh water streams flowingin his backyard provided him an opportunity to not leave his family behind for work anymore. He could earn a livelihood by rearing rainbow trout fish. Bandey, 40, is part of the government’s initiative to privatise high potential trout fish farming in Jammu and Kashmir aimed at creating livelihoods and enhancing fish production in the meat deficit state. With financial help of Rs2 lakh provided by the Department of Fisheries under a centrally sponsored scheme, Bandey established a trout-farming unit near his house on the banks of Gramtu, a tributary of river Vashaov. Trout is reared in raceways of clear cold waters with temperatures remaining below 15 degrees Celsius. A raceway is a long rectangular pond, usually 60 feet by six feet with water flowing in it round-the-clock. “They (Fisheries Department) visited our home and told my wife that our land was suitable for trout farming,” said Bandey. “First we hesitated but when they told us that total cost will be borne by the government, I decided to go ahead. So I came back from Jammu and started the construction of the raceways.” After one month Bandey was ready to stock the first batch of 3000 fingerlings of rainbow trout in his pond. It required him four marlas (around 1000 square feet) of land and risk of losing a seasons work if the project failed. “It may seem a small risk, but for me it could have come at the cost of starving my children,” said Bandey, whose only source of income was earnings from manual labour in Jammu. The fish in his farm thrived. In just six months, the first batch of table-size saleable fish was ready for sale. “I would not be able to send back more than Rs70,000 to Rs80,000 to my family from Jammu,” said Bandey, sitting on veranda of his house, gazing on his trout farm with gleaming eyes. “But, last year I earned more than Rs1.6 lakh in seven months, that too with half of my produce. Due to the need of some repair work I had to pull out second batch of the seed soon after I put it in the ponds. Otherwise my sales would have been double.” Bandey is not the only trout fish farmer in his village. His neighbour, Nawaz Ahmad, started at the same time. Though it took more time for Ahmad’s fish to grow but he has sales worth Rs2.4 lakh. Success of Bandey and Ahmad has inspired many others in Mandujan to set up trout fish farms. According to Manzoor Samoon, district fisheries officer, Shopian, there are 10 applications for construction of new units from the same village. “Trout has good growth in Shopian and is highest in Kashmir,” said Samoon. “In 2009 we established three private farms.When there were very good results, next year we constructed six more. And this year, we are helping to set up six more units in private sector in the district.” In Shopian trout farming in private sector is a new phenomenon. It started in 2007, when Shopian was carved out of the Pulwama as a separate district. This hill district besides having good potential for rearing of trout due to abundance of glacier fed water streams is also having highest trout yield in the valley, fisheries officials say. One of the trout farmers from Shopian was awarded Rs10,000 by agriculture department for producing 12.5 quintals of fish, highest in the valley in seven months, said Samoon. Shopian has two government owned trout farms as well. In Alyalpora on the outskirts of Shopian town, five pairs of raceways on 30 kanals (1.5 hectares) of land are under construction with a capacity of rearing one lakh trout fish at a time and another two pairs of raceway in Zainpora on five kanals of land, which are spring-fed and have produced more than 20 quintals of fish in 2011. Officials in the state fisheries department say that the Shopian story is being replicated throughout Jammu and Kashmir. With centrally sponsored schemes released through Rashtriya Krishi Vigyan Yojna (RKVY) 129 trout units have been established since 2008 when trout farming was introduced in private sector, said MM Bazaz, Assitant Director Fisheries Headquarters. The number of department run trout units is presently 50 in all districts of Kashmir, Ladakh and few districts of Jammu division. A British carpet dealer, FJ Mitchell, introduced an exotic fish, trout in Kashmir in 1900. He had brought the eggs from Scotland. But it was only after 1980 when trout rearing was started at commercial level. “The setting up of Kokernag trout fish project in 1984, a state of the art trout centre with a major hatchery and trout culture unit enabled the rearing of trout at a bigger scale. The project proved to be a major breakthrough in commercial trout farming in J&K,” said a retired fisheries official Farooq Ahmad, who has served the department for more than 33 years. “At that time two new varieties of rainbow trout, Danish and Isle of Man were brought from Scotland for commercial rearing. As we started producing a large quantity of fish, we decided to sell it to people.” However, Bazaz says that fisheries department is a development and facilitating agency and selling fish is not the aim of department. As technology comes from research institutions and universities, the department helps in lab to farmer transfer, he said. The basic aim of the department is to introduce trout culture to private sector, and provide technical know-how and other requirements to farmhand, he added. In the absence of any private hatcheries and feed mills, it is the government, which takes care of both seed and feed. “Seed extraction (production) is a technical affair which needs special hatcheries. It is not possible to produce large quantities of seed for commercial purposes if the breeding takes place the natural way,” said Samoon. “For hatcheries the quality of water needs to be very good. Its temperature should not be more than 10 degrees Celsius. It should not have any kind of pollution and must be without any kind of slit.” Presently, there are three hatcheries including mother hatchery of Kokernag, which can produce upto 15 lakh trout fingerlings. And work onfor five more hatcheries in Anantnag, Kulgam, Ganderbal and Bandipora that will double the production in next two years. The breeding season of trout is the winters (late October to March). At that time the brooders in the department’s hatcheries are used to produce fish seed by induced breeding. “Eggs are manually squeezed out of the female trout in a plastic tray by a process called stripping. Then, these eggs are fertilized with milt from male fish, which is extracted the same way,” Samoon said. The first sign of life in the trout egg is a dark spot on it and it is called the eyed-ova stage. After a month’s incubation period the fry comes out of the egg. The farmers are provided 15 to 20 gram frys as extreme is care is needed to bring the seed to that stage, says Samoon. Trout is a highly carnivorous fish. Generally,it feeds on fish and soft bodied aquatic invertebrates but bigger fish prey on smaller fish, if these are available. “In Kashmir indigenous schizothroax fish is in abundance. Schizothroax and its seed is the main feed for trout here. They also eat some hill stream fishes as big as 100grams,” said Samoon. However, the trout raised in the farms is fed artificial feed. The department has a feed mill, imported from Holland 25 years ago, which is now worn out, say fisheries officials. The mill with a capacity to produce 500 kilograms of feed per hour has been rendered inadequate with an increase in demand. The department is setting up another feed mill at Mansbal, which is expected to become operational in April this year. “A new feed mill, imported from Holland is being set-up at Mansabal with funding by National Fisheries Development Board, which can produce high quality feed for 5000 trout units,” said Bazaz. The feed ingredients, especially the main one, fishmeal, are not available locally. People associated with fish culture say, preparing the feed with locally available ingredients will be the key to bringing down the costs of rearing. The feed available right now is mainly composed of fishmeal, brought in from coastal areas, vitamins, minerals and some other nutrients. A report, Fish and Fisheries at Higher Altitudes by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation published in 2009 has stated that though production of marketable size trout on fish farms is still, “the best results with farm production of market-size trout have been achieved in northern Pakistan and in Kashmir (India).”