Inland Fisheries

Amazing diversity, huge production and great potentiality characterize inland fisheries of India. The inland fishery resources of the country comprise of the rivers and canals, reservoirs, tanks and ponds, estuaries, brackish water lakes, backwaters, floodplain lakes (oxbow lakes) etc. while the marine water bodies are mainly used for both capture fisheries resources, the inland water bodies are widely used for culture and capture fisheries.

India has a total inland water surface area of 82,467 sq km with water resources in the form of numerous rivers, streams, reservoirs, wetlands, lakes, tanks and ponds etc. The country has a river length (including canals) of 3,88,957.32 km, reservoirs of 35,24,724.18 ha, tanks and ponds of 24,78,263.21 ha, brackish water of 11,60,162 ha, beels of 4,34,850.93 ha water area, oxbow lakes and derelict water bodies of 1,17,800.45 ha and 2,30,136. 38 ha respectively, and other water bodies of 3,00,724.52 ha.

A major part of the river stretches and canals are concentrated in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Much of the reservoir areas falls in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Tanks and ponds are concentrated in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa. A large part of the area under flood plain lakes and derelict water bodies is found in Kerala, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Assam. Brackish water areas are concentrated in the maritime states of Orissa, Kerala, West Bengal, Gujarat, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and in the Union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Total area under water bodies (excluding rivers and canals) is found to be maximum in Orissa, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc. in that order. Several wetlands are shared with neighbouring countries too as in case of Ladakh and Sundarban. The major river basins of the country are the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Tapti, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery.

Fish farming with agriculture has been an age old practice of our people. In this system, fish culture is integrated with agricultural crops such as rice, banana and coconut, thereby producing fish and agricultural crops under one interlinked system. Paddy-cum-Fish (PFC) culture has been an old practice in many countries like Japan, Malaysia, Italy, China and India. In some of India’s north-eastern states it is extensively practiced. As paddy fields remain flooded with water for several months, fish can be grown there at low cost in addition to rice benefitting the rural populace with extra income, food and nutrition.  However, with the advent of high yielding varieties of paddy with consequent use of insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and anti-weed products has become widely prevalent – many of which can be highly toxic to aquatic animals even in minute quantities – fish culture has been rendered incompatible with paddy farming wherever the high yielding varieties of paddy are cultivated.

According to the Fisheries Statistics 2018 published by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying of the Government of India, inland fisheries account for 8.90 million metric tonne (more than 70%) of the total fish production of 12.59 million metric tonne in the country. According to NFDB estimates the quantity of fish produced by inland capture fisheries stands at 3.2 million metric tonne. Thus inland capture fisheries of India have an important place. It contributes to more than 25% of the total fish production. The large network of inland water masses provides great potential for economic capture fishery. Inland fisheries sector of our country provides employment to twice the number of fish workers than that provided by the marine fisheries sector.

            The great potential of inland fisheries of our country and the potential of inland capture fisheries in particular have been under severe threat from pollution, diversion of water from water bodies, encroachments on the water bodies and their catchment areas. Rivers have been turned into waste water drains. Natural water bodies like rivers, lakes and wetlands are being dried up due to massive diversion of water for irrigation, industrial and municipal use. The water accumulation areas and replenishment channels of natural water bodies have been largely intervened by infrastructure and real estate development. The Government policy neglects the ecological services of natural water bodies including the fisheries. The development paradigm followed is based on extractive exploitation of our water resources including the natural water bodies. It is time that the society recognises the value of water bodies and the rich fisheries resources they harbour. It is time that our society recognises the bounty of nature with gratitude and protects it.

The small scale inland fishers, fish farmers, fish vendors and allied fish workers are crusaders of the water bodies. As the saying goes, ‘where there is water, there is fisher’.  Since good fish needs good water, the small scale fishing communities always and everywhere try to protect the water bodies.  The most unfortunate, deplorable and damaging fact for the fisheries of the country is that the small scale fishing communities, the natural custodians of our water bodies and the fish resources they harbour, do not have any legal recognition of their right over water bodies.

The small scale fishing communities need the following rights to survive and make the water and fish resources survive too –

  • Tenure Rights: Right to access and sustainable use of water bodies like rivers, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, tanks and ponds and the fish resources in them as well as the right to use land areas necessary for the same;
  • Governance Rights: Right to protect the water bodies and fish resources and stop, regulate or restrict activities and/or processes detrimental to the water bodies and fish resources;
  • Right to Infrastructure: Right to have fishing equipments and gears, fish storage facilities, transport and market facilities;
  • Right to Finance: Right to have access to financial support on easy terms;
  • Right to Market: Right to access wholesale and retail markets with basic facilities like sufficient and appropriate vending space, cleaning, shade, light and toilet;
  • Right to Social Security: Life and medical insurances; old age, infirm and widow pension; housing; educational assistance for children.
Total Website Visits: 111498