Chief Minister releases 1,000 juveniles produced at a RGCA hatchery into the sea
A few years from now, the sea off Vizhinjam coast near here could again be teeming with shoals of cobia, an edible high-value species of finfish that has been on the decline due to over-exploitation.
As many 1,000 juveniles produced at a hatchery set up by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA) at Pozhiyoor were released into the sea on Friday under a Marine Finfish Stock Enhancement Programme. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Shashi Tharoor, MP, released the first lot of fish into the water from aboard a boat, signalling the launch of the project.
The stock enhancement programme was taken up by the RGCA, the research and development arm of the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), to address the decline in natural fish stocks.
Also known as Lemon fish or Ling, the cobia (Rachycentron canadum) grows up to two metres in length and attains a weight of 68 kg. Its appearance, texture, and flavour makes it a preferred choice for gourmets across the world.
The technology for breeding cobia in captivity and production of cobia seed was developed by RGCA in January this year to overcome the high juvenile mortality of the species which together with over-exploitation has resulted in declining stock.
Leena Nair, chairperson, MPEDA, and president, RGCA, said the sea ranching (release of artificially bred fish) programme would be continued on a regular basis. She said the programme was expected to enhance the production of cobia in the area around Vizhinjam from 500 to 2,000 tonnes over the next three to four years. “An additional 3,000 tonnes can also be produced through sea farming.
A production of 5,000 tonnes represents a value of Rs.2,000 crore, including the export potential.”
Earlier, addressing a function held at the Vizhinjam wharf, the Chief Minister stressed the need to ensure the participation of fisherfolk in the stock enhancement programme.
He said the State government would extend all possible help to the MPEDA to carry out its activities.
Presiding over the function, Mr. Tharoor said Kerala could benefit from the huge demand for cobia in the international market.
Ms. Nair said that RGCA would launch sea farming of cobia at Vizhinjam soon. Open sea cages would be established in the demonstration phase.
Fishermen would later be organised into self-help groups for commercial farming operations.
Kovalam MLA Jameela Prakasam, District Collector P.M. Francis, Director of Fisheries V.N. Jithendran and Y.C. Thampi Sam Raj, project director, RGCA, were present on the occasion.
The MPEDA has plans to invest heavily on genetic improvement of farmed marine species.
It also proposes to tag the fish being released into sea to carry out studies when they are caught later.
The technology transfer and training centre established by the RGCA at Sirkali in Tamil Nadu is providing training to fisherfolk in sea farming.
The unit is being upgraded with prototype farms and hatcheries, a modern aquaculture library, and pathology and genetics laboratories.
Besides setting up hatcheries for mud crab and seabass at Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, the centre has programmes for domestication of tiger shrimp, broodstock development of scampi, an aquatic quarantine facility at Neelamkarai, Chennai, and projects for tilapia and grouper fish.