Breeding of exotic rainbow trout in the cold waters of Himachal Pradesh is set to get a boost with the state government roping in private players.
Trout, both brown and rainbow, is found in the Beas, Sutlej and the Ravi rivers in the upper Himalayas. 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 1.2cr (Rs 12 million/$1,94,000) project to boost fish production in the state, fisheries director Gurcharan Singh told IANS.
There is a provision for extending a loan of Rs 2.30 lakh each for the construction of 100 run-of-river rainbow trout farms in the private sector, Singh said.
This will also help the unemployed youth to earn livelihood, he said.
As per government figures, commercical fish production in 2013 was at 8,560 tonnes. This included 205 tonnes of trout, mainly the rainbow variety.
At present, the state has over 80 trout farms, including five that are run by the government, mainly in Kullu and Mandi districts.
The NFDB project also pertains to training and skill refinement of the 11,000-odd fishermen who operate in the state's two main reservoirs - Govind Sagar (Bhakra Dam) and Maharana Pratap Sagar (Pong Dam). This would focus on rural development through aquaculture, reservoir fishing and backyard fish farming.
Four mobile fish markets would be deployed as part of the project. "This would not only meet the long-standing demand of the consumers for easy availability of fresh fish but would also benefit fishermen in fetching remunerative prices," Singh said.
He said the centrral government has also sanctioned Rs 334 lakh to the state for the development of fisheries. For this, the state is hiring technical knowhow from Kolkata's Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI).
The CIFRI would demonstrate 'cage fish culture' technology for increasing fish production in two reservoirs, which are home to Indian major carp and a few exotic carp. The exotic species include the common carp and the silver carp.
Though major Indian carp like the rohu, the mrigal and the catla are stocked every year in the reservoirs by the fishery department, exotic carp is also introduced occasionally.
Fish experts say overall production at the Bhakra and Pong dams has been declining. They attribute this to habitat loss, pollution, increased sedimentation caused by deforestation and destructive fishing methods.
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 coldwater 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.
Commanding between Rs 221 and Rs 250 per kg of trout, a farmer earns a profit of over 35%, researchers say.
A trout fish farm generates 213 days of employment in a year and provides 41% 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 in Himachal Pradesh dates to colonial times. The British introduced trout in 1909 to promote angling. At that time fingerlings were released in various streams and multiplied and multiplied and multiplied!