Pond and Tank fisheries

The Resource:

The inland fisheries resources of India include 2.86 million ha water area of freshwater ponds and tanks and about 1.2 million hectares of brackish water resource. But only about 40% and 13% of the freshwater and brackish water resources respectively are utilised for aquaculture. (Read more) These resources are under either private or public ownership.

The History:

Occurrence of fish in India dates back to three millennium BC. Fish remains and cut marks have been obtained from evacuations at Mohenjodero and Harappa of Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC – 1500 BC) indicates utilization of fish as foodIn India Kautilya, in his “Artha Shastra” written around 300 B.C. described how fish could be poisonous in tanks during war. King Someswara son of king Vikramaditya VI was the first to record the common sport fishes of India and group them into marine and freshwater forms in his book Manasoltara compiled in 1127 AD (Read more). During British rule in India, they developed sport fisheries through the introduction of trouts in the hill streams of Nilgris, Kashmir and Kulu valley. Brackishwater farming in India is an age-old system confined mainly to the bheries (manmade impoundments in coastal wetlands) of West Bengal and pokkali (salt resistant deepwater paddy) fields along the Kerala coast, without additional input, except that of trapping the naturally bred juvenile fish and shrimp seed.  The development of freshwater aquaculture in the country became established following the establishment of the Pond Culture Division at Cuttack in 1949 under the name of the Center of Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI), West Bengal. Whereas The importance of brackishwater aquaculture was recognised only after the initiation of an All India Coordinated Research Project, (AICRP) on ‘Brackishwater Fish Farming’ by ICAR in 1973. The project developed several technologies pertaining to fish and shrimp farming, however, scientific and commercial culture at present is mostly concentrated to farming of shrimps. The earliest attempt on mariculture in India was made at the Mandapam centre of CMFRI in 1958–1959 with the culture of milkfish (Chanos chanos). CMFRI has developed various technologies for a number of species including oysters, mussels and clams among sedentary species, as well as for shrimp and finfish. CMFRI initiated a pearl culture program in 1972 and developed a technology for pearl production in Indian pearl oysters.

In earlier days fry were collected from wild waters for culture. The urgent need for seeds to fill the expanding aquaculture industry resulted in technology breakthroughs in induced spawning of cultivable species during the period from 1700 to 1900. Indian scientists achieved the first success in induced breeding of Indian major carp through hypophysation in 1957 and Chinese succeeded in Chinese carp in 1958. Likewise the penaeid shrimp species and the giant freshwater prawns used in culture were also hatched under control in hatcheries. Intensive brackishwater aquaculture started in India with tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) farming initiated during early 1990s. With the introduction of Pacific white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) during 2009, Indian aquaculture industry has grown rapidly.

The shift from traditional and improved traditional aquaculture dependent on natural resources and/or minimal human inputs to intensive aquaculture dependent on technology, artificial feed, antibiotics and growth hormone inputs with massive proliferation especially in brackish water shrimp aquaculture has entailed the problems of pollution, contaminated produce, salinity ingress in both surface and ground water reserves as well as virus attacks in a big way. It has also contributed to inequity of income in fisheries.

The Importance:

With the consumption of fish rising steadily, the rising demand for fish can be met only if the growth in aquaculture occurring in the village water bodies is sustained. Farm ponds can provide for a number of benefits that can help smallholders in their quest for development. (Read more) They provide for water storage, can be used to rear fish and other aquatic organisms like crustaceans, molluscs and plants, be integrated with other farm enterprises and improve and vary farm family diets. Further and importantly farm ponds can contribute to income and employment.

The Classifications:

Aquaculture practices are classified in several ways, depending upon the different aspects and situations involved in the culture practice. Some major and important classifications are given below based on different factors involved in aquaculture (Read more).

  • On the basis of ownership
  • Customary Use: Some small scale fishers or fish farmers may have access to some manmade or natural small water bodies that are common property resources and cater to multiple community uses.
  • Individual Freehold Ponds: There are many small scale fish farmers who have freehold ownership of small water bodies.
  • Individual Leasehold or Rented Ponds: Greatest number of small scale fish farmers takes water bodies on lease or rent because they either do not possess water bodies or sufficient quantity of them for their sustenance.
  • Collective Leasehold or Rented Ponds:

In many areas small scale fish farmers lease or rent water bodies on lease or rent collectively water bodies which, in majority of cases, are public water bodies.

  • On the basis of salinity
  • Freshwater farming: Farming of aquatic animals and plants in zero saline water, mostly fresh water farming is inland based. Catla, Rohu, Mrigal, Silver carp, Grass carp, Common carp and Fresh water prawn are mainly farmed in fresh water.
  • Brackish water farming: Brakishwater is a mixture of seawater and freshwater with a salinity less than 30ppt. All estuaries, backwaters, creeks and mangrove waterways are brakish in nature. Over 25 species of commercially important fishes, shrimps, crabs and mollusks offer a wide scope for farming in brakishwater.
  • Marine water farming: Farming of aquatic animals and plants in sea water is commonly known as marinewater farming or mariculture. In mariculture rearing of commercially important fishes and shell fishes are done in open sea by installing cages.
  • On the basis of type of water resource:
  • Runoff ponds: Runoff ponds are built in the watershed and receive water from rainfall, thus being entirely controlled by climate and catchment area.
  • Ground-water ponds: These are dug in low-lying areas where the water table is near the surface and thus fills in the pond.
  • Borrow-pit ponds: Borrow-pit ponds are created through road or rail construction, from the holes dug in raising the road or rail track above ground level (nayanjuli), or in other circumstances when the by product of an activity is a hole in the ground.
  • Derivation ponds: These are ponds supplied with water by derivation canal from water sources. These ponds are perhaps the easiest to manage.
  • Ponds using siphoned or pumped water: Smallholders sometimes use water from their ponds to support the entire farm.
  • Paddy field ponds: Rice paddy field water bodies may also produce fish. It has been shown to produce 10 percent higher rice yields and as much as 50 percent increased income through sale of fish in comparison to a mono crop of rice.
  • Ponds integrated in irrigation schemes: Some smallholder farmers may have ponds located within irrigation schemes. They can benefit from the system of water supply canals.
  • Small water bodies: Some small holders may have access to natural or man-made small water-bodies. These small water bodies have multiple uses requiring multiple-use management that have to deal with common property and access rights.
  • On the basis of intensity of inputs and stocking density:
  • Extensive fish farming system: Extensive fish farming system is the least managed form of fish farming, in which little care is taken. This system involves large ponds measuring 1 to 5 ha in area with stocking density limited to only less than 5000 fishes/ha. No supplemental feeding or fertilization is provided. Fish depends only on natural foods. Yield is poor (500 to 2 ton/ha) and survival is low. The labour and investment costs are low and this system results in minimum income.
  • Semi-intensive fish farming system: Semi-intensive fish culture system is more prevalent and involves rather small ponds (0.5 to 1 hectare in area) with higher stocking density (10000 to 15000 fish/ha). In this system care is taken to develop natural foods by fertilization with/without supplemental feeding. However, major food source is natural food. Yield is moderate (3 to 10 ton/ha) and survival is high.
  • Intensive fish farming system: Intensive fish farming system is the well-managed form of fish farming, in which all attempts are made to achieve maximum production of fish from a minimum quantity of water. This system involves small ponds/tanks/raceways with very high stocking density (10-50 fish/m3 of water). Fish are fed completely formulated feed. Good management is undertaken to control water quality by use of aerators and nutrition by use of highly nutritious feed. The yield obtained ranges from 15 to 100 ton/ha or more. Although the cost of investment is high, the return from the yield of fish exceeds to ensure profit.
  • On the basis of fish species
  • Monoculture: Monoculture is a fish production system in which only one fish species is reared in a culture system. The major fish varieties reared in monoculture system are trout, tilapia, catfishes, carps, shrimp etc. Monoculture of high-value, market-oriented fish species in intensive system is a common practice throughout the world. Supplementary feeding is compulsory to ensure production.
  • Polyculture: Polyculture is a fish production system in which two or more different fish species are farmed or culture of fish along with some other aquatic animals like shrimp or prawn. In this system of culture species with different habitats and different food preferences are stocked together in such densities that there will be almost no competition for food or space. Polyculture practices give higher yield than monoculture under the same conditions for freshwater carp farming.
  • On the basis of enclosure
  • Pond culture: It is the most common method of fish culture. In this case water is maintained in an enclosed area by artificial construction of dike/bund, where aquatic animals are stocked and grown. Ponds are usually filled by rain, canal water and by manmade bores. They differ widely in shape, size, topography, water and soil qualities.
  • Cage culture: Cage culture is rearing of fish from juvenile stage to commercial size in a volume of water enclosed on all sides including bottom, while permitting the free circulation of water. Cage culture is more expensive and stands the risk of polluting the open water resource in which it is put. Algal bloom and escape of exotic species to open water are added hazards.
  • Pen culture: Pen culture is defined as raising of fish in a volume of water enclosed on all sides except bottom, permitting the free circulation of water at least from one side. This system can be considered a hybrid between pond culture and cage culture. Mostly shallow regions along shores and banks of the lakes and reservoirs are used in making pen/enclosure using net/wooden materials where fish can be raised. In a fish pen, the bottom of the lake forms the bottom of the pen. Pen has the advantage of containing a benthic fauna which serves as food for the fish and polycultue can be practiced in pens as it is in ponds. The environment in fish pen is characterized by a free exchange of water with the enclosing water body and high dissolved oxygen concentrations. Pen culture is also expensive and stands the risk of polluting the open water resource in which it is put. Algal bloom and escape of exotic species to open water are added hazards.
  • Race-way culture: Raceway culture is defined as raising of fish in running water. It is a high production system in which fishes are grown in higher stocking density. Raceways are designed to provide a flow-through system to enable rearing of much denser population of fishes. Race-ways are also expensive and the water in circulation has to be purified / renewed to avoid higher level of pollution and low level of oxygen.
  • On the basis of integration
  • Agriculture cum fish farming: In the fish integrated agriculture system, fish culture is integrated with agricultural crops such as rice, banana and coconut, thereby producing fish and agricultural crops. Agriculture based integrated systems include rice-fish integration, horticulture-fish system, mushroom-fish system, seri-fish system.
  • Animal husbandry cum fish farming: Livestock integrated fish farming system includes cattle-fish system, pig-fish system, poultry-fish system, duck-fish system, goat-fish system, rabbit-fish system. In this integrated farming the excreta of ducks, chicks, pigs and cattle are used directly in ponds to increase plankton production which is consumed by fish or serve as direct food for fish. Hence, the expenditure towards chemical fertilisers and supplementary feeds for fish ponds are totally avoided reducing the production cost.

The Problems of Small Scale Fish Farmers:

Small scale fish farming is ridden with multiple problems starting right from having access to water body to the sale of fish produced. These are – (Read more)

  1. No Identity: First and foremost, the abject marginalisation of the fish workers including the small scale fish farmers is evident from the denial to provide them with Government Identity Cards. I-Card is the recognition of the dignity of occupation of fish farmers and of their rightful entitlement to all the benefits and assistances provided by the government for fish farmers. 
  • Procuring Financial Resources: Fish farming needs money. Getting proper pond, seed, feed, and medicine requires resources amount of which depends on the size of pond and the species of farmed fish. For small scale fish farmers it is difficult to get bank loans. They easy prey of local money lenders or wholesale fish sellers. PMMSY is too complex for them to access. KCC also depends on local body or government certifications that are rife with political favouritism.
  • Accessing the Water Resource: Getting water bodies on lease or rent is becoming tougher by the day. There is competition not only within the fish farming community but also without. Investors and entrepreneurs are trying to get hold of both government and private water bodies. As a result, the lease rents are rapidly increasing.

Traditional communities, who used to farm fish in public water bodies, had no legal right over those resources. The decision of the Government to give fish farming right in those water bodies on lease turns a common property resource into a private one, thus dispossessing the traditional small scale fish farmers. The resource goes to the highest bidder.

In case of private ponds taken on lease by the traditional small scale fish farmers the same problem prevails. There is no security of lease. At the end of the agreement period the fish farmer is simply thrown out if he or she cannot pay the lease rent asked by the owner for new agreement.

Then there are other problems. More often than not the agreements are verbal. Even if they are written, in many cases they do not mention the schedule of the pond. As such these cannot be used by the farmer to financial institutions to get loans, or to the government to get compensations in case of natural calamities.

  • Protecting the Water Resource: Pollution, encroachments, interceptions in catchment and drainage areas, as development entailments, continuously and severely degrade the ponds. Small scale fish farmers are powerless to address these problems and have to bear with the loss of livelihood.
  • Getting Quality Fish Seed: It is always a problem to get quality fish seed. Many hatcheries produce fish seed from immature fish. It impairs the growth of fish.
  • Getting Quality Fish Feed: Procuring quality fish feed is another problem area. Feed sold by companies are expensive. There is no system of certification and quality control. There are complains about unhealthy growth of fish. Techniques and technologies of preparing homemade good feed are not known by the small scale fish farmers.
  • Disease Management: Fish is susceptible to disease. Apart from keeping the pond water clean, medicinal treatments to both prevent and/cure diseases are become necessary from time to time. No institutional system exists to help the small scale fish farmer in this.
  • Accessing Proper Market: Marketing the farmed fish is another area of concern. The small scale fish farmer becomes dependent on the middlemen or wholesalers who fleece them.

The Demands of Small Scale Fish Farmers:

A. Recognition of the occupational dignity of small scale fishing communities: Each and every small scale fish farmer, irrespective of caste, creed, gender and religion, should be given government identity card as recognition of their occupational dignity, rights and entitlements along with all fish workers.

B. Tenure Rights:  Small scale fish farmers should have farming rights in all Government owned water bodies and reservoirs on preferential basis (over non-fish farmer investors) and easy terms (lease rent should be fixed on the basis of present yield and not on the basis of standard yield) with at least 5 years moratorium on increase of lease rent.

Small scale fish farmers should have the right to security of tenure (protection against eviction) in privately owned water bodies taken on lease.

Small scale fish farmers should enjoy the right to participate in regulating the terms and conditions of lease including fixation and increment of lease rent of privately owned water bodies.

C. Governance Rights: Small scale fish farmers should have the right to protect water and fish in all water bodies from pollution, encroachment, obstructions on catchment and drainage and inequitable use of water.

D.  Right to Economic Empowerment & Finance: Small scale fish farmers should be protected from exploitation by usurers / money lenders and micro-finance companies and should enjoy priority in government finance including bank linking and bank loans (Kisan Credit facilities are to be extended to fish farmers).

Small scale fish farmers should be encouraged and provided with incentives to form and run organisations for economic self empowerment like Cooperatives, Fish Production Groups, SHGs etc. The terms and conditions for their formation and running should be made easy and transparent.

E. Right to information, quality inputs and technology: Due importance and respect should be given to document traditional knowledge and expertise in fisheries with their appropriate utilisation;

Small scale fish farmers should be provided with technology, information, training and assistance regarding up gradation of pond preparation techniques, hatchery development, procurement of quality seeds and fingerlings, farming techniques, quality feed and market;

Small scale fish farmers should also be provided with technology, information, training and assistance to enhance value addition through procedures like crab fattening and rearing of wild fish as well as manufacturing of different value added products like dry fish, fish pickles, papads etc. with market access;

Small scale fish farmers should be provided with technology, information, training and assistance to diversify into gainful enterprises like ornamental fish breeding and rearing;

There should be public notice regarding government schemes for fish workers and absolute transparency with procedural regularity in selection of beneficiaries and disbursement of benefits.

F. Right to Infrastructure: Small scale fish farmers should be provided with support for –

Boats, nets and other implements. Fish collection, auction and marketing facilities. Access to hatcheries and quality seed, fish feed and disease management.  Fish collection, auction and marketing facilities.

Access to hatcheries and quality seed, fish feed and disease management.

G. Right to Social Security & Livelihood Support: Small scale fish workers should have comprehensive social security cover that includes –

Housing for all fish workers; Food security cover; Life and health insurance cover; Insurance cover for boats and nets, fish farming and vehicles employed for fish vending; Old age and infirm pension; Livelihood support during lean season and / or fishing ban period;  Educational assistance for children.

H. Priority for Women Fish Farmers: Women fish farmers and ancillary workers need to be provided with preferential rights to access Government schemes.

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