The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has issued its final guidelines, allowing private entrepreneurs and enterprises to import Asian Seabass fish (Lates Calcarifer) seed and fingerlings.
The Union government has so far been not entertaining requests from Andhra Pradesh-based aqua enterprises to import the fish variety, fearing diseases and possible loss of native species. Primarily, aqua enterprises are keen on importing Asian Seabass from Australia, a leading country that has developed fifth generation seed of the fish. In Australia, the fish is known as ‘Barramundi’.
The guidelines are expected to bring in rapid changes in terms of fish production and economic activity.
Scarcity of seed
The supply of Asian Seabass seed by the Tamil Nadu-based Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture was insufficient, given the demand for the fish in Andhra Pradesh.
“The guidelines to import Asian Seabass seed and fingerlings will enable interested aqua farmers and enterprises in Andhra Pradesh. So far, farmers in Krishna district and hatchery operators have been collecting wild Asian Seabass seed from mangrove forests and coastal belts for cultivation,” said T. Raghu Sekhar, an aqua farmer.
“Asian Seabass is arguably an alternative to shrimp cultivation in Andhra Pradesh. Allowing import of the fish seed will improve fish production. Given the high market value of the fish, farmers in the State will immediately shift from shrimp to Asian Seabass cultivation,” an expert in brackishwater aquaculture at CIBA told The Hindu .
The natural seed of Asian Seabass is found in coastal areas and brackishwater sources in Krishna district, where local communities collect it to supply to hatcheries. Asian Seabass is one of the fish species which survives in pond, river and sea.
The guidelines issued recently by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare provide for responsible fisheries with due consideration of necessary biological, technical, economical, social, environmental and commercial aspects.
The guidelines also made it mandatory that hatchery / fish farms intending to breed Asian Seabass should be registered with the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA). Cultivation will be allowed based on the recommendations of the CAA. However, direct sale of imported fingerlings should not be allowed for domestic or international market.