In order to meet growing local demand for fish, India’s Bengal state is aiming to up its farmed fish production.
According to Bengal's Tribune news service, a government official said that the state has decided to initiate a fish cage culture system, or cage aquaculture, in order to catch up with local demand currently being met by importing fish from other states in India.
The state will be using brackish water bodies owned by the State Fisheries Development Corporation (SFDC), as well as by fishery cooperatives and private owners.
Initially, the state government will set up 80 cages ranging in diameter from two to 15 meters that will be installed in reservoirs, rivers, lakes, and the sea in the districts of North and South Parganas and East Midnapore, and all the cages will be operated by SFDC. The official said that the new aquaculture operations will be engaged in rearing milkfish, mullet, pearl spot, and shellfish including shrimp, crab, and lobster.
The state is looking to replicate the success of large aquculture produceing countries such as Norway, Thailand, Japan, and the Philippines, which satisfy their own domestic demand for fish through aquaculture, and even export to other countries.
The official said because the required financial investment to begin an aquaculture operation is low, this farming method is ideal for small-scale fishermen and farmers as a means to give them an alternative source of income. The state government is supporting researchers and commercial producers in the development of regional aquaculture and has asked several small and limited-resource farmers to adopt it as an alternative to traditional agricultural crops because aquaculture appears to be a rapidly expanding industry, the official said.
Depending on the success of the venture in commercial terms, the fisheries department has plans to start similar activities in freshwater bodies and in marine areas, according to the official.
With 210,000 hectares, West Bengal has the fourth-largest total area of impounded brackish water area after Odisha, Gujarat, and Kerala.