Brackish potential for a shrimp farming surge in India

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Brackish potential for a shrimp farming surge in India

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3D mapping of brackish-water aquaculture resources is to be undertaken in India, backed by satellite images and extensive ground surveys, in a move that could boost the country’s shrimp production.

Early in the morning, Kunjumon and his team of five are busy getting their fishing nets and other paraphernalia ready. One team member is nervous, pointing out that he has not seen the ubiquitous sea birds that frequent the zone – expressing a belief that if the birds were around, the sea would be calm. The dark sky and rain-heavy clouds are of no help.

The fishermen of Kerala in South India have long sworn by the signs and portents of traditional wisdom – such as the congregation of birds, the colour and smell of sea water, bubbles breaking on the sea surface, muddy and oily water, or a clear reflection in the sea the previous evening – before venturing out to fish.

Not anymore. These days, they no longer rely only on hearsay or blind beliefs. Scientific information on the weather has come to their aid, to the extent that most of them know exactly where to cast their nets, thanks to alerts from the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre.

The centre, in collaboration with the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, has been working towards the transfer of meteorological technology to the coastal fishing community to benefit their livelihoods. The scene is reproduced across the country.

Remote-sensing satellite data applications provide real-time information, and the forecast is achieved by correlating information on sea surface temperature, pigment concentration and other oceanic features.

The scientific process takes into account other parameters such as chlorophyll, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, salinity, winds and currents, all of which are also used to study the feeding and breeding habits of fish.

N C Anil Kumar, scientist at the Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre, says the fishing community in Kerala has hugely benefitted from the technology, which has resulted in larger catches as well as a significant improvement in the quality of life of many fishermen.

A team of scientists from the ICAR-Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, have decided to go a step further. Scientists are soon to begin 3D mapping of brackish-water aquaculture resources available in the country in an effort to promote farming activity in the coastal areas.

India has a large potential area of 1.2 million hectares of brackish water, of which only 10 per cent is being used.

The country has a long history of traditional farming in brackish water in bheries (large impounded shallow water areas with facilities for drawing tidal water) of West Bengal and Pokkali fields (in which salt-resistant strain of rice and fish are co-cultured) of Kerala. Commercial farming, however, has been confined to a single commodity, shrimp – largely Penaeus monodon (the native giant tiger prawn), and Penaeus vannamei (the exotic whiteleg shrimp) – due to its high export potential.

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