Santosh Patnaik

VISAKHAPATNAM: Considered a highly risky project, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) on Monday positioned a floating cage weighing 1500 kg. in the shallow waters near RK beach for culturing of Asia Sea Bass in an eco-friendly natural environment.

The rough sea conditions notwithstanding, 50 men including some former naval divers were deployed to position the giant structure at 10 metres depth and 200 metres away from the shore. The polypropylene cage fabricated locally with a diameter of 17 metres was anchored at four metres depth. Round-the-clock watch will be kept on the cage to prevent poaching of the fingerlings and stealing of ropes and nets.

A 600-kg iron object was hooked to the bottom of the cage along with a powerful rope. CMFRI staff will go to the cage twice a day for feeding the fingerlings. It can house 5,000 Asian Big Bass. Each fingerling is expected to grow to 750 grams to one kg. by October from present weight of 10 grams.

"We are very much excited with the pilot project. Among the selected places at Ratnagiri, south of Maharashtra, Mandapam near Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Diu, the CMFRI launched it for the first time in Visakhapatnam," G. Syda Rao, principal scientist and in-charge scientist of CMFRI, told The Hindu. CMFRI director Mohan Joseph Modayil has initiated the project and its results are expected to be path-breaking. The project is considered as an adventure as monitoring the progress on day-to-day basis is a difficult task. Hence, care has been taken to have multiple nets. The predator net put up outside the cage keeps big fishes at bay and prevents the caged fish from being eaten by others. Bird net on top will keep birds away. In case of necessity, it has the provision for temporary stay for one person with cooking facility. Cage culture is done in small area under natural environment to ensure high yield and 90 per cent survival.

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