Minister for Fisheries S. Sharma has said that uncontrolled sand mining is affecting the eco-system of Vellayani Lake. He was speaking after inaugurating a ‘Vellayani Lake Sustainable Fish Production Scheme’, in Vellayani on Tuesday.

Highlighting the dire situation of the lake which has been subjected to reclamation and land filling by encroachers and property developers over the years, Mr. Sharma said that the lake which once occupied an area of 441 hectares has now been reduced to just 250 hectares.

This in turn has lead to the depletion of fish stock in the water body, adversely impacting the livelihood and sustenance of the fishermen in the region, besides leading to other environmental issues.

According to the Fisheries Minister, Kerala is behind the national average when it comes to inland fish production. It is estimated that only 75,000 tonnes of fish are produced from the State’s inland resources. “This is way below its potential,” said Mr. Sharma. “We are planning to enhance in land fish production by about 2 lakh tonnes in the next two-years. A comprehensive scheme involving over 20,000 hectares covering over 796 grama panchayats across the State is already under way. A total of Rs. 24 crore has been allocated as subsidy alone by the government for this purpose,” he said.

Mr. Sharma also added that the State registered an all time record in fish exports in 2008 by exporting fish worth Rs. 1,587 crore.

Under the scheme as many as, 4,500 species of newly hatched fresh water prawns and carp were released into the lake by the Minister. The scheme is expected to replenish the fish resource and conserve the biodiversity of the region by 2012. Some of the activities of the scheme implemented by the Agency for the Development of Aqua culture in Kerala include, awareness creation among the local community including farmers and fishermen about the potential of fishery in the lake and train them on various aspects of scientific fish culture; collection and rearing of native species in pens; releasing large size fish into the lake; continuous monitoring of the feeding habits; and monitoring the water quality of the lake in relation to species population. The harvest and marketing of the fish will begin from January 2010 onwards.

George Mercier M.L.A. who presided over the function said that nearly 10 lakh fish hatchlings have been released into the lake over the last two years under various schemes.

The function was also attended by K. Ashok Kumar, president, Kaliyoor, Panchayath.