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State’s 1st fish brood bank at Umktieh

Mawpun: Meghalaya Fisheries Department has created history by turning a 4.7 acre swamp at Umktieh, Ri Bhoi District into a fish brood bank which will provide the best brood stock to fish farmers and hatchery owners in Meghalaya.
The swamp land was purchased from the MeSEB in 1979 at a princely sum of Rs 14,000 but was lying unutilised because the Fisheries Department did not have enough financial resources to develop  the place. It was only after the big launch of the Aquaculture Mission in 2011 that Fisheries Department could make progress.
About 200 fish farmers from different parts of the State witnessed this eventful march of the Fisheries Department towards self sufficiency in fingerlings. Principal Secretary Fisheries Department, KN Kumar said the low quality of fingerlings as brood stock quickly declined because the production could not be enhanced. “There is urgency for a brood bank to spawn fresh water fish in the region. It took us the Fisheries Dept four years to turn the bog into a brood bank and the credit goes to engineer Lucas Kharkongor who undertook a near impossible task of creating structures in the swamp,” Kumar said.
He informed that this is the first brood bank in the country except for the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture at Bhubaneshwar. Meghalaya has partnered with Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) at Kochi whose Chairperson  Leena Nair was present for the inauguration. MPEDA will supply the best brood stock which could in turn produce millions of fingerlings of Rohu, Katla, Mrigal etc. But Meghalaya will be trying to breed and acclimatise Scampi and Tilapia both of which are high value fish needing brackish water.  Kumar said that what the big break for Meghalaya fish farmers would happen when fish species diversification happens and exports take off. “The Department is ready and able to start this venture,” Kumar added.
Addressing the audience, Leena Nair said that the Fisheries Department’s ambition of producing 15,000 MT of brood in 5 years is daunting but not impossible. Pointing at the need to develop aquaculture, Ms Nair said that catch from the sea has reached a plateau due to over exploitation.  In 2013-14 India’s exports reached 1 million tonnes with Scampi being the major export. India is second only to China in marine product exports because 98% of fish is consumed domestic ally.
Nair said that in the past people has bad experience of rearing Tilapia but now the varieties have improved and can grow up to 600 grams in 5 months. She explained that Meghalaya had 133 varieties of ornamental fish which is sold to agents from Kolkata. “Ornamental fish are a national heritage and they need to be bred  so as not to lose this heritage.
Chief Secretary PBO Warjri said it is heartening to learn that MPEDA would provide guidance in use of new technology to promote fisheries. “We have been depending on Assam for fingerlings. Now we can rear our own brood to feed the upcoming hatcheries in the State.
Later the VIPs released fingerlings in the brood bank and also at the research station at Mawpun. The 200 odd fish farmers and invitees had to wait for over 2 hours for the Chief Guest to arrive – a scene that has become commonplace in  Meghalaya. Then there was a long line of security personnel posted all along the Shillong- Umiam road all the way to the Fish Brood Bank. The fish farmers and visitors wondered at the presence of so many security personnel.  Many of the fish farmers wanted to get more information about the brood bank and how they can access it but there was no information desk at the venue.

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