Inland fish farmers in Kozhikode have long been pushing for a local hatchery for supply of fingerlings.

What the ailing inland fish farming sector needs, even more than the steps taken by the local self government institutions and Fisheries Department to buoy it, is a native hatchery.

Lack of such a hatchery forces several small-scale fish farmers from the region to depend extensively on private supply of fingerlings from hatcheries in the southern districts of the State. A proposal submitted by the Fisheries Department for such a hatchery in the government sector, to supply quality fingerlings, remains unattended for the past several years.

Currently, there are over 1,000 inland fish farmers in Kozhikode district alone. Their sole source of fingerlings is private hatcheries. The Fisheries Department does have schemes to provide quality fingerlings, but their process is so tedious that small scale players or new entrants are left dispirited.

“Only people approved by the panchayat-level aquaculture societies are allowed to buy stock from the Fisheries Department. Small-scale fish farmers are not interested in such formalities,” says Ravindran Palikkal, a farmer. Flexible distribution methods will attract youngsters to the sector, he says.

Under the circumstances, a native hatchery, which will replace stock quickly in the event of a shortfall, is the obvious solution. Now, an entrepreneur has to wait for weeks to get the new stock, which causes heavy losses to the already ailing sector.

A native hatchery could help even the Fisheries Department, which now has to depend on the supply of the Agency for Development of Aquaculture (ADAK) to meet the requirements of those affiliated to panchayat-level aquaculture societies. Opening of a regional hatchery will reduce the dependence on the ADAK, which in turn depends on the private hatcheries to get to the stock.

Ornamental fish farmers here manage with available stock. Some of them have also set up domestic breeding units, an initiative yet to taken up by inland fish farmers, most of whom operate with minimal investment and facilities.

“These days, the government is investing huge sums in annual river ranching programmes to improve fish production. If a portion of this fund is utilised for opening a hatchery, it will be a great help for the small investors in the sector,” says Sandeep Kumar from Olavanna.

“In 2010, over 10 lakh fish fingerlings were let into rivers as part of a ranching programme. But, the yield was very low. The amount could have been spent for supporting the farmers,” he says.

The Fisheries Department officials say they have submitted a separate proposal to the district panchayat for support for setting up a district-level hatchery for inland fish farmers. The panchayat is interested in the scheme, but steps are yet to be taken to begin the works.

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