Karimeen (pearl spot), the ‘upper-middle class' fish which is a favourite with tourists, is getting a profile uplift.

Kerala Fisheries Minister S. Sarma announced in the Assembly this week that the oval-shaped fish, which often serves as Kerala's icon in the minds of gourmets, will be the official State fish. And, 2010-11 is being observed as ‘The Year of Karimeen.' The measure is expected to boost the production of Karimeen (Etroplus suratensis).

Already, a dozen States have an official fish. The National Bureau of Fish Genetics Resources had in 2008 suggested that States adopt a State fish, à la State bird and animal.

Fried pearl spot (Karimeen pollichadhu) is a delicacy that tops menus at restaurants. Few tourists leave without having tasted it. A boat ride in the backwaters while relishing the Karimeen pollichadhu is an integral part of an average tourist's Kerala experience.

Most expensive

However, for the common man, Karimeen is too hot a delicacy — it is one of the most expensive fish. Karimeen too is beyond the pocket of the poor.

The Kuttanad region in Alappuzha district is considered the tharavad (family home) of the fish. Kerala now produces only 2,000 tonnes of Karimeen. “Because of the new initiative, the production is expected to go up to 5,000 tonnes in a year,” Fisheries Director P.I. Sheikh Pareeth said.