Cobia fingerlings released near artificial reefs off Vizhinjam coast
The marine population off the Vizhinjam coast got larger on Thursday, when around 350 cobia juveniles were released into the Arabian Sea near the artificial reefs set up along the coastline.
Fisheries and Excise Minister K. Babu, travelling on a fishing boat from the Vizhinjam fishing harbour up to around 22 nautical miles off the coast, released the four-and-a-half-month-old hatchery-bred juveniles, each weighing around 250 gm and expected to reach about seven to eight kilos in another eight months, into the waters and watched as they dashed off in all directions, as if the sea was always their home.
The release of the juveniles, part of the sea-ranching project taken up by the Department of Fisheries through the Kerala State Coastal Area Development Corporation was the second instance after Chief Minister Oommen Chandy launched the project in July. The project has technical support from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture, the research and development wing of the Marine Products Export Development Authority.
Aimed at enhancing the fast depleting fish stock, the process is expected to help fishermen switch to hook and line fishery and in the future, steadily to take up cage aquaculture, a practice that is slowly being experimented off the Nagercoil coast, according to RGCA project manager P. Anilkumar. Sea ranching, though a practice yet to be taken up on an active scale by States other than Kerala, was quite popular in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Mr. Babu, talking to the media later, said the project would be extended to other coastal districts as well. Other fish species such as grouper, sea bass and the pompano would be tried out as well. The progress of these would be monitored regularly using underwater cameras. Stating that the full-grown cobia, popular in Malayalam as ‘motha’, would fetch about Rs.400 a kilo in the current market, the Minister said the State government was planning to enhance the fish stock in inland waters through a panchayat-based programme and using similar ranching techniques.
The marine population in the inland waters of the State was expected to be taken to at least 2.5 lakh tonne from the existing 1.5 lakh tonne with this, he said.
Mr. Anilkumar, who said 100 per cent survival of the juveniles was expected, added that the monitoring process would include studies on the colonising habits of the fish. They would easily adapt to the sea, and the artificial reefs, which are expected to prevent unsustainable fishing practices such as trawling and also to absorb wave energy, would offer a favourable habitat to them.