| The prawn-breeding centre in Guwahati. Picture by Sarat Sarma |
Nagaon, Dec. 25. Come March, a plate of fried prawns could be a common item at eateries in Assam.
Rare prawns, available only in some places along the Brahmaputra, are now being cultivated by farmers involved in pisciculture. The state government’s fisheries department claims that these will reach markets within March.
According to a report, 50,000 prawns, artificially grown in the department’s hatchery a year ago, were handed over to 17 farmers last summer. Full-sized prawns will reach the market within the next three months.
The Brahmaputra’s fresh water is extremely favourable for prawn growth, but a major problem is the first 11 stages (30 to 45 days) as these require sea water. Prawns pass the first 11 stages in sea water and later move to fresh water.
“We establish breeding houses of our own where female prawns are kept in treated water. The prawns complete the sea water stages here and are handed over to farmers only when these get used to fresh water,” said fisheries department director Manoj Deka.
Deka said the first prawn-breeding centre was commissioned in Guwahati two years ago. The construction of two centres in Dhubri and Silchar is on. “There is a huge demand for prawns in the entire Northeast but it is found only in limited pockets of plain river bank areas because of its breeding habits, which leaves a huge gap between demand and supply. If all our artificial hatcheries are commissioned, prawns might become a very popular item in the region,” he said.
Artificial breeding of prawn and sitol fish has been the biggest success of the state’s fisheries department in the last few years.
“Sitol has become an endangered variety because of its peculiar behaviour. Once we started its artificial production, the fish variety became very popular in the market. Sitol is artificially produced in government and private hatcheries nowadays,” Nagaon fisheries officer S. Dutta said.
“I collected some prawn fingerlings from the departmental hatchery last year and released them in my pond. Initially, I thought that all of them would die as the water did not suit them. But I found zero mortality rate and within the last eight months these have become almost mature. I will bring these to the market after some months,” said Nizamul Hoque of Darrang.
Hoque is one among the 17 farmers who collected prawn fingerlings from the department’s hatchery.