The Ernakulam district panchayat has approved a plan to launch new aquaculture farms on 67 hectares during the current financial year under the guidance of the District Aquaculture Development Agency.

A statement issued by the Public Relations Department said the plan was to spread the farming of varieties such as carp, Malaysian catfish, local varieties of cat fish, snakehead, pearl spot and scampi in freshwater bodies as well as various shrimp varieties and suitable fishes in salt water bodies.

The district panchayat has plans to use all available water bodies in various panchayats for aquaculture so that they become models for others.

Plans had been firmed up to launch the first aquaculture project in Avoli panchayat, the statement said.

Use of traditional ponds, development of artificial ponds for aquaculture, free distribution of hatchlings and fish feed were also part of the Fish Village programme, the statement added.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) said genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) was becoming popular in Kerala. The statement said a pilot project for cage farming of GIFT had concluded successfully. The pilot project was initiated under the aegis of the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture, Vijayawada, which supplied hatchlings for the demonstration project.

MPEDA estimates that GIFT farming in 12,000 hectares of water bodies in the State can generate income of about Rs. 700 crore a year.

The city-based National Institute of Fisheries Post Harvest Technology and Training (NIFPHATT), under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), has also successfully developed about 20 value-added products from GIFT.

The MPEDA statement said the U.S. imports roughly 2.25 lakh tonnes of GIFT annually.

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