IMPHAL, Dec 25 - For the first time, Manipur�s State fish �Pengba� (Osteobrama belangeri) has been introduced in cage culture on an experimental basis in a bid to enhance table fish production to meet the increasing demand and for its conservation. Cage culture is a form of aquaculture that involves rearing of fish in waterbodies while being enclosed in a net cage. The ambitious project was taken up by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI), Barrackpore in collaboration with the State Fisheries Department in the cages installed in Takmu waterbody in Manipur�s Bishnupur district, said Senior Scientist (Aquaculture) Dipesh Debnath of ICAR-CIFRI (Guwahati centre).
Debnath said the project has been taken up to popularise cage/pen culture for fishery in large waterbodies like lakes or reservoirs without disturbing other activities. He said such kind of activities are being taken up in the waterbodies of Assam besides Gomati reservoir in Tripura and Umiam lake in Meghalaya in the Northeast by introducing cage culture to enhance production of different varieties of fish. According to him, such initiatives can help in meeting the growing demand of fish in Manipur once the ongoing experiment becomes successful as the table fish can be harvested as and when required through cage culture, he said.
On selecting Pengba for the pilot project, the ICAR scientist said that Pengba, being omnivorous, can feed on floating feeds and algae inside the cage and subsequently they can grow up to 300-500 grams within five to six months.
At present, around 500 to 2500 Pengba fingerlings were released in each of the 10 cages in the Takmu waterbody which is part of Loktak Lake, he said.
Director of State Fishery Department N Gojendra Singh said they would also study the survival rate and the feeding pattern of the fish.
It may be mentioned that the new initiative has been taken up after successful induced breeding of Pengba, which used to be found abundantly in Loktak Lake at one point of time. This particular fish had vanished from its wild habitat and now only bred in farm ponds due to habitat degradation, pollution and introduction of non-native fish species.
Manipur, which is home to about 220 fish species, has seven endemic fish species among the 15 endangered freshwater fish species listed in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature�s threatened species report on the status and distribution of freshwater biodiversity in Eastern Himalaya.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Tuesday transferred Rs 15,000 each to 900 fish farmers in five hill districts to develop 450 hectare of paddy field to enhance paddy-cum-fish farming to meet increasing demand of fish in the State.
As per reports, Manipur spends around Rs 400 crore annually to buy fish from outside since the State currently produces only around 32,600 metric tonnes of fish against the requirement of 52,000 metric tonnes.