Six years ago, when all the prawns in his farm died due to viral infection, Baburaj of Cheriyathuruthi at Kadalundi saw the world around him crumble. He had taken loans from public and private sector banks to follow his passion, but with the failed attempt, his four-member family was in dire straits. But now, a beaming Baburaj explains how his world turned around for the better, courtesy the Karimeen (green chromide or pearl spot).

Baburaj has been staying at Cheriyathuruthi, a small island almost at the mouth of the Kadalundi river, for as long as he could remember. The island that houses 14 families has a huge pond at its centre, where Baburaj has been hatching Karimeen fingerlings for the last four years. It is the only Karimeen seed farm in the district. Karimeen, a most favoured delicacy among tourists as well as local people, has helped Baburaj pay back all his loans and make a neat profit.

“Karimeen is easy to rear, not like Chemmeen (prawns) that needs constant attention and care,” Baburaj told The Hindu. In fact, he says the island provides the best possible condition for Karimeen farming with constant flow of water from the river to the pond, saving him the effort of artificially managing the oxygen-level in the pond.

The adult fish are fed rice and pellets/cattle feed. The pond is divided into two segments with sand-made bunds and pipelines beneath to facilitate flow of water between the segments. Thus the water level in the pond is maintained at one metre or above depending on the level in the river.

Hatching season

Karimeen costs around Rs.400 a kg in the market. But Baburaj rears them not for sale, only to hatch the fingerlings that he would sell. He gets bulk orders from nurseries across the State as the hatching season approaches. The hatching usually takes place during June-July or November-December.

The fingerlings are collected using a rare technique of inserting a grass-like cage into the pond. The fishes have a tendency to take shelter in them, as the pond is free of any vegetation. When the cage is lifted the fingerlings will be caught inside. They will then be transferred to a tank.

Foreign elements entering the pond by means of the river water is a major threat to the farm.

Narimeen, the enemy

The threat mainly comes in the form of Narimeen, a huge fish that would eat up the small Karimeens. The solution is to rear some prawns as well as another fresh water fish ‘Malan’ in the pond to some extent. These are the favourite food of the Narimeen, and hence would leave the Karimeen alone. The Narimeen itself is a big catch. Last season, Baburaj sold a 10-kg Narimeen for Rs.4,000. It grows up to 50 kg, he said.

At present, the farming is restricted to only one of the segments, as the bund that separated one segment from the river was washed away last January in a flood. Baburaj had a loss of at least Rs.1.5 lakh then, with all the Karimeens, save around 140 of them, drifting into the river. Now he has around 2,000 adult ones in the remaining one segment, ready to hatch in June. By July, he will have thousands of Karimeen seedlings ready for sale. With one seedling fetching Rs.10, the sale would easily cover for his losses.

Mussels too

Apart from the seed farm, Baburaj has Rs.15 lakh worth mussels getting ready for harvest along the river. He also engages in freshwater fishing for his daily living. The fresh water fishes are of great demand even in the coastal belt, he said, thanking the river for all the good fortune.

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