Many widely sought Indian species of ornamental fishes are going under a genetic upgrading and may end up patented by foreign countries.
This could hit the Indian ornamental fishes industry, mostly centralised in south, in the nascent stage quite badly. The fish export from India is two per cent of 4.5 billion dollar of global business and major revenue comes from the fishes the foreign scientists are vying for patent.
Dr UC Goswami, President, Section of Animals, Veterinary and Fishery Sciences of Indian Science Congress Association said the industry was closing in to lose a good source of revenue if the government fails to formulate a clear policy on ornamental fish export.
"We need to protect and promote the breeding of ornamental fishes, which are real aquatic treasure of the country," said Dr Goswami who was in the city related to research work.
India with its tropical climate fused with varied sources of fresh water and nearly 9,000 km long coastline suits best for small fish cultivation. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have promoted the fish cultivation at micro level roping in foreign agencies such as fisheries resource and management society.
Other states getting into the act have come out with policies giving fillip to the business considering the wide demand for Indian species Singapore and few other south-asian countries are the biggest buyers of Indian ornamental fishes.
But Germans making inroads into the industry genetically engineered Indian species into hybrids ones. They changed their colour pigments using genomics. "They took the valuable fish from us and looking for their patent," said Dr Goswami.
One of prettiest of fishes with maximum global demand Colisa was the first to under go genetic changes in German labs. The fish is commonly found in the ponds is being exported as Gaurami, which is one costliest ornamental fishes.
"If the practice is allowed the Indian species will lose identity and become property of the foreigners," he said, adding, "the foreign countries are cashing on the absence of any definite policy on fish keeping and exports". There are several species such as catfish, dwarf, giant Colisa and barbs-the highly popular Indian fishes are being de-Indianised.
Dr Goswami who has extensive work upon the ornamental fish said that different types pigments were formed upon the fish according to the food they took and the quality of water and the adequacy of sunlight they enjoyed.
He said there were vegetarian and non-vegetarian fish but both of them get colours through the vitamin rich diet they consume in water. The best live fish food for the non vegetarian fish was Chironomous and Tibifex larva while the vegetarian fishes extracted vitamins from variety of under water plants.