To boost production of exotic rainbow trout in the cool waters of this hill state, the government Sunday laid the foundation stone of a fish farm with an outlay of Rs.4 crore.
This will be the seventh state-run farm that will annually produce six-seven tonnes of trout, fisheries minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri told IANS.
He said the run-of-the-river farm, whose foundation stone was laid at Thalla village, some 10 km from here in Chamba district, would start production by the end of the year.
The farm would also produce around 1.5-2 lakh fingerlings, which would be supplied to the fish breeders, he said.
Trout, both brown and rainbow, are found in the Beas, Sutlej and Ravi rivers in the higher reaches of the state.
Being a game fish, the brown trout is also an angler's delight.
The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) in Hyderabad has sanctioned a Rs.1.2-crore ($194,000) project to boost fish production in the state, fisheries director Gurcharan Singh said.
There is a provision for extending a loan of Rs.2.3 lakh each for the construction of 100 run-of-river rainbow trout farms in the private sector, he said.
As per government figures, commercial fish production in 2013-14 was at 9,580 tonnes. This included 233 tonnes of trout, mainly the rainbow variety.
The state has over 100 trout farms, mainly in Kullu, Chamba, Shimla, Kinnaur and Mandi districts.
Himachal Pradesh with its five rivers, numerous streams and reservoirs has a big potential for fish production, say experts.
Of the 3,000-km network of state fisheries' water resources, 600 km of cold water streams are conducive for trout farming.
The average annual production of a small fish farm is 900 kg, whereas a large farm could produce up to 3,400 kg, said a study carried out by Shimla-based Himachal Pradesh University's Agro-Economic Research Centre on trout farms in Kullu, Mandi, Shimla and Kinnaur districts.
Selling trout priced between Rs.221 and Rs.250 per kg, a farmer earns a profit of over 35 percent, researchers say.
A trout fish farm generates 213 days of employment in a year and provides 41 percent of the average household income.
The trout is a freshwater fish of Salmonidae family. Of the 15 species found globally, brown and rainbow trout are found in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The history of trout fishing in Himachal Pradesh dates back to colonial times. The British introduced trout in 1909 to promote angling. At that time, fingerlings were released in various streams and multiplied.