The West Bengal Fisheries department has decided to initiate farming of fishes in cages across the state to meet the burgeoning local demand and also to cut down dependence on neighbouring states for supplies, a senior official has said. "We have decided to initiate the fish cage culture system or cage aquaculture across West Bengal," the official of the state Fisheries department told PTI. For the purpose, brackish water bodies owned by the State Fisheries Development Corporation (SFDC) as well as by fishery cooperatives and private owners would be used, the official said. "Similar fish cage culture has been done by private organisations, but on much smaller scales. We are planning to come up with this on a much bigger scale," he said, Cage aquaculture is a fish farming procedure on a floating frame. It involves growing of fishes in existing water resources while being enclosed in a net cage which allows free flow of water. They can be installed in reservoirs, rivers, lakes or sea.
A catwalk and handrail is also built around the floating cages. Circular cages of different diameter, ranging from 2m to 15m, designed for cage culture would be engaged for the purpose where varieties like milkfish, mullet, pearl spot, shellfishes such as shrimps, crabs and lobsters are on the list, he added. "These days cage culture is receiving attention from both researchers and commercial producers. Several small and limited resource farmers are looking forward to it as alternatives to traditional agricultural crops because aquaculture appears to be a rapidly expanding industry. We are hopeful that this will be a hit among small farmers," he said. The official added that cage aquaculture can play a significant role in increasing the overall fish production in West Bengal. Since, the investment is low, this farming method is ideal for small scale fishermen and farmers as an alternative source of income. As per the initial plans of the Fisheries department, 80 cages would be employed for the cultivation. "Initially there will be 80 cages used for the cultivation of fishes. Out of these, 18 cages will be used by the SFDC and the rest will be distributed among those in the districts of East Midnapore, both North and South 24 Parganas who will be employed for the cage culture of fishes," the official said. Depending on the success of the venture in commercial terms, the Fisheries department has plans to start similar activities in freshwater bodies and in marine areas. With 2.10 lakh hectares, West Bengal is considered to have one of the country's largest impounded brackish water area after Odisha, Gujarat and Kerala.
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