Kerala Agricultural University will start a live gene bank for freshwater fish species at its Regional Agriculture Research Station (RARS) at Kumarakom, near here.

According to K.G. Padmakumar, associate director, RARS, efforts are on to start a live gene banking centre at Kumarakom in collaboration with the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (NBFGR). The National Consultation on Live Gene Banking of Freshwater Fishes of Western Ghats being held at Kumarakom on Saturday will seek to develop strategies for live gene banking of freshwater fish species and explore possibilities of establishing a regional live gene bank (LGB) at Kumarakom. The conference is being organised jointly by the RARS, the NBFGR and the Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation Society, Lucknow.

Dr. Padmakumar says that LGBs are facilities where endangered or endemic species are maintained in near-natural conditions for conservation and genetic enhancement programmes. LGBs and captive breeding are useful approaches for the conservation of endangered and critically endangered species, facilitating rapid growth of the population to enhance genetic variability.

According to him, the RARS already has a successful collaborative programme for captive breeding and milt cryopreservation of a number of commercially important and endangered freshwater species of regional importance. Such programmes are of immense importance as these can be a source of seeds for ranching into natural waters and contributing to conservation programmes. Such programmes need to be strengthened, for which establishment of LGBs will be an effective strategy, he says.

The proposed LGB at Kumarkom is expected to become a model one for the entire SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) region, Dr. Padmakumar says.

According to him, the deliberation at the national consultation will look into strategies for providing the much-needed food and nutritional security and for widening the food basket of the country. About 70 participants, including scientists, planners, academics, students, fish hobbyists, representatives of non-governmental organisations, and Central and State government officials are expected at the consultations.

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