Meghalaya plans to boost fish yield

Shillong: The Meghalaya government will go aggressive in making the state self-sufficient in fish production with the fisheries department planning to take up as many as 25,000 fresh fish ponds across the state.

Meghalaya had developed around 17,000 fish ponds under the state aquaculture mission so far.

"Proposals are in progress to develop around 25,000 fresh fish ponds. We want the state to produce fish on its own in the next few years without depending on others," fisheries minister Comingone Ymbon said on Wednesday.

The state government would submit the proposals to the Centre for financial assistance. The financial requirement to develop the proposed fish ponds is yet to be worked out.

The state government's move came close on the heels of the recent ban on import of fish from outside after formalin, a highly toxic preservative, which is injurious to health, was found in the fishes.

Meghalaya imports about 21,000 metric tonnes of fish annually from various states such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Bengal, while the state on its own can produce only around 12,000 metric tonnes annually.

In the past five years, the fish ponds created under aquaculture mission could produce around 8,000 metric tonnes of fish in a year.

Till last year, Meghalaya's demand for fish has gone up to around 33,000 metric tonnes annually, and the hill state has to meet the deficit of around 21,000 metric tonnes by importing from outside, particularly Andhra Pradesh.

A state government official said people in Meghalaya are not traditional fish farmers.

"We need to learn from states like Andhra Pradesh. In Andhra, the farmers' turnover is not in crores but they are the ones who engage in fish farming without waiting for the government's support. We want that kind of a scenario in Meghalaya too," he added.

To increase the state's fish production, he stressed on building the capacity of farmers.

"We need to focus on capacity building and empower our fish farmers. It is not easy to achieve the target and giving grants and subsidies will not help much. We have to build entrepreneurship. Fish farmers across the state need the right kind of feeds and scientific ways of harvesting with a focus on increasing the size of fishes," the official said.

Consumers also have a big role to play by demanding fresh fish instead of buying the imported ones, he added.

"The market is already there since the demand for fresh fish is very high," the official said.

Asked about indigenous species, he said, "We have to go slow in areas where indigenous species have to be preserved. We have to start extensive fish farming in feasible areas for commercial production. By following mixed strategies, we can achieve the target," the official said.


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