IT IS TIME WE GREW MORE FISH!
If you think, we get most of our fish from the ocean, rivers, lakes or ponds, you got it wrong. The core source of supply, most surprisingly, is the fish farms. That only confirms the exponential of growth of aquaculture since 1980 when its contribution to India’s fish production was less than one-fifth.
However, by 1996 it had grown into a third and currently it accounts for more than half. The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations predict that by 2030, aquaculture would account for nearly two-thirds of India’s total fish production. Aquaculture has proved itself a reliable and sustainable source of livelihood taking into account the way it has caught on across the country over the past couple of decades.
Yet, if the UN prediction is to become a reality, it has to tackle a number of issues, particularly issues relating to quality and safety of the fish people consume. This is particularly so in the backdrop of the allegations pertaining to antibiotic and chemical use. We cannot close our eyes to such allegations though it is a fact that the use of chemicals including sanitisers for cleaning tanks per acre per crop has come down by about 60% compared to the cost in the year 2000. As for antibiotics, we need to understand the need for creating an eco-system that is free from antibiotics to earn a respectable space in the global market.
It is the most ideal and desirable solution. But, if that appears too tall a target to surmount, then, the least we can do is, minimize the use of antibiotics so that their harmful residual remains won’t get transferred from the fish to human system. We need to address these issues urgently to ensure quality instead of wasting our time and energy to prove that the allegations critics prop up are exaggerated. This is all the more important because India has over 3,000 species of fish, two-thirds of which are marine, and a third is freshwater, which gives an impressive futuristic outlook about aquaculture.
It is true that we rank second in the world in aquaculture next only to China. Yet, it is not a matter of consolation considering the tremendous production gap. Just compare the 5.7 million tonnes India managed to produce in 2016 compared to the 49.2 million tonnes of China and you will know where we stand.
To up our game, we need to create infrastructure to monitor quality. We need to invest more in processing to add value and it clearly shows that our government spending to promote fisheries to the tune of Rs.1727 crore since 2013 is just not enough. We need to do much more to grow more fish. We cannot do that by muddying the water. Nor can it be achieved by slinging mud on each other.