Padmavathy and Usha sell prawn and sea bass pickles at the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) office here. For these Irula tribeswomen from self-help groups in Pulicat, success is a recent experience. All you have to do is to take a peek into the bill book – in it is written their success story of growing Asian sea bass (koduva) in cages.

“CIBA supplied us 10,000 sea bass fishlings free of cost, and we were able to sell 3,600 of them after three months for Rs. 47,500. We could have earned more, but there was heavy rain followed by the cyclonic storm Nilam,” said Padmavathy.

Lingeswara Rao, a farmer from Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh, said that in a year he could make a profit of Rs. 5 lakh from sea bass farming and all he required was Rs. 1 lakh as investment per acre.

“Farmers in Machilipatinam are into it in a big way because they are able to feed sea bass with Tilapia, a freshwater fish available in plenty,” he said.

Milestone

If these Irula women and hundreds of farmers and fishermen across the country depend on sea bass for their livelihood or permanent revenue, the credit should go to A.R. Thirunavukkarasu, Head of Fish Culture Division of the CIBA, who first achieved the milestone of captive breeding in 1997.

S. Ayyappan, Director General, Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), said, “All the 20,000 scientists should be directly in the field and ensure that our technological breakthroughs reach the end users.” He was speaking at a workshop on the demonstration of Asian sea bass in ponds.

One lakh tonne

Dr. Thirunavukarasu said that today the sea bass production in the country was only 25,000 tonne and the task was to increase it to one lakh tonne.

“For this we need at least 10 more hatcheries.” At present, the CIBA’s hatchery at Muttukadu and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture, Sirkazhi, are the only ones available.

Recalling the days when he had worked along with the scientists with the CIBA, which led to the breakthrough in sea bass breeding in the country, Dr. Thirunavukkarasu said the interesting feature of the fish was that 99.9 per cent would become female after a certain age (protoandrous hermaphrodite).

“The fish lives in backwaters and migrates to the sea for breeding. The only way to differentiate the male from female is the size. In captive breeding, we gave hormone injection to facilitate the breeding. Now it is no longer necessary as the fish has been domesticated,” he said.