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Fish culture in cages to enhance output
RITURAJ BORTHAKUR

Cages placed on a water body
 GUWAHATI, Sept 30 - In a new initiative, the State fishery department is installing modular cages in beels for rearing fish which, it says, would give high returns from a small area.

The fish culture practice in cages in beels of Assam is not new. In the traditional way, the farmers use bamboo for making cages, stock multiple species and feed the fish stuff like mustard oil cake and rice bran, etc., from where they earn very little profit.

“However, the new initiative is an improved cage culture practice where modular cages are made with nylon twine net and rope fitted with high density polyethylene (HDPE) floats and complete feed-based culture practice with very high stocking density,” explained Dr Bhagaban Kalita, senior fishery development officer.

A major problem in fish culture in beels is the catching of cultured fish during harvesting since beels are vast water bodies. “But in cage culture harvesting of fish is not an issue. Even a single fish also can be harvested at any time... It also does not have any adverse impact on the normal fish production of the beel where the cage is installed and chances of reared fish escaping are zero. Daily monitoring of fish inside the cage is effortlessly possible,” Kalita said.

Moreover, the fishery department claims that the new device is long durable – above 10 years with a single initial investment and it involves less recurring expenditure. Another advantage of modular cage culture is that it is not affected by flood as the cages are floating.

The Fishery Mission Society of the fishery department has planned to install such type of 15 batteries of modular cages in different beels of Assam within this financial year and accordingly, installation of those batteries is going on in Baksa, Bongaigaon and Barpeta districts at present.

A set of cages is called a battery where cages are fitted together. Although the number of cages with different sizes in a battery may vary as per convenience, in this new initiative taken by the fishery department a battery of ten cages are being fitted together considering the depth of the beels.

Interested fishermen societies and individuals (lessees) are being selected based on the characters of the beel like perennial in nature, productive area (more than 5 hectares), depth (more than 3 metres) etc., and financial soundness of the candidate.

The initial investment for the construction of a battery consisting ten cages is around Rs 13.50 lakh out of which the beneficiary has to contribute Rs 4.05 lakh (30 per cent share) and a recurring cost per year is around Rs 8.45 lakh out of which the beneficiary has to contribute around Rs 2.53 lakh (30 per cent share).

Assam has 101,232 hectares of beel area with tremendous potential of fish production. The existing fish production of beels is only about 300 -350 kg per hectare per year against the production potential of 1,000-1,500 kg/ha/yr due to various reasons such as encroachment, deterioration of beels, enhancement of area to nonproductive beels, etc.

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