Taking a cue from the successful cage fish farming projects being experimented in some parts of the country, the Thanneermukkom panchayat is tying up with the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) to launch mobile fish hatcheries on the Vembanad Lake.

The project, to be launched as part of the ongoing Matsya Gramam project of the panchayat, is hinged upon similar aquaculture technology being used in Vietnam, the panchayat's standing committee chairman P.S. Jyothis told The Hindu. A self-help group of 20 members has been formed to be trained for the project, out of which five fishermen will shortly be sent to the Andamans and Nicobar Islands for a 15-day training programme.

The project aims at having cages that can hold fish fingerlings with small huts on top that can accommodate one person. The mobile hatcheries, which will initially be positioned near the Thanneermukkom barrage, will float around once the fish grows so that the fisherman sitting on top can sell them directly from his ?farm'. The timeframe estimated for the fisherman to be able to sell his product is six months.

With the MPEDA and the State government financing the project, plans are also afoot to help the fishermen export their products, Mr. Jyothis said, adding that the focus would be on promoting cultivation of sea bass (kalanchi), while ?karimeen' (pearlspot), tilapia and carp would also be among the varieties to be hatched and reared in the mobile cages.

The project, which has the patronage of Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac, is expected to cost about Rs.7 lakh for the initial ?demonstration'. About 500 fishermen, who are struggling to earn a livelihood from the Vembanad Lake, are expected to benefit from the project, once it is successfully implemented.

The Thanneermukkom panchayat is also planning to shortly launch an ornamental fish cultivation project, which is currently being tried out on an experimental basis in 11 ponds for the last three months. A survey for the Rs.22-lakh project is over and training is to be launched soon.

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