Hilsa Fish farming in india

Hilsa fish (Tenualosa ilisha) is an important fish species in India, especially in West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is considered a delicacy and has a high demand in the market. Hilsa fish farming has gained significant popularity in recent years due to its economic and nutritional benefits. The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive overview of hilsa fish farming in India, including its history, suitable environment, preparations, techniques, advantages, challenges, marketing and export, government policies, and future prospects.

History of Hilsa Fish Farming in India

Hilsa fish farming has a long history in India, dating back to the 15th century. It was initially practiced in the traditional method of capturing wild fish from rivers and estuaries. Over time, hilsa fish farming techniques evolved, and modern methods were introduced, including pond culture, cage culture, pen culture, and raceway culture. Currently, hilsa fish farming is a significant source of income for fish farmers in India.

The Beginnings of Hilsa Fish Farming in India : Hilsa fish farming in India has a long history dating back to ancient times when fish were caught from natural water bodies such as rivers, estuaries, and lakes. The traditional method of catching hilsa fish was through fishing nets or traps, which were set in the water bodies. In the early 20th century, fish farming began to gain popularity as an alternative to traditional fishing methods.

The Evolution of Hilsa Fish Farming Techniques in India : Hilsa fish farming techniques have evolved over time, driven by the need to increase fish production and meet the growing demand for fish in the domestic and export markets. The earliest hilsa fish farms in India were small-scale, using traditional methods such as ponds or tanks. However, with the advent of modern technology, hilsa fish farming has become more sophisticated, with the use of artificial feeds, improved breeding techniques, and disease control measures.

The Current State of Hilsa Fish Farming in India : Today, hilsa fish farming is a thriving industry in India, with several fish farms spread across the country. The state of West Bengal is the largest producer of hilsa fish, accounting for more than 50% of the country’s production. Other states that produce hilsa fish include Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. Hilsa fish farming in India has come a long way from traditional methods to modern techniques, and it continues to evolve as farmers embrace new technology and innovative farming practices to meet the growing demand for fish.

Suitable Environment for Hilsa Fish Farming

The suitable environment for hilsa fish farming requires specific water quality parameters, temperature, pH, oxygen supply, salinity, and water depth. The water quality parameters should be maintained within a specific range to ensure optimal fish growth and survival.

  • Water Quality Parameters : Water quality is a critical factor in hilsa fish farming as it directly affects the health and growth of the fish. The water should be free from pollutants and should have the appropriate levels of dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other essential minerals. It is also essential to maintain proper pH levels and ensure that the water is not too acidic or alkaline.
  • Temperature and pH : Hilsa fish are sensitive to changes in water temperature and pH levels, which can affect their growth and survival. The optimal temperature range for hilsa fish farming is between 20°C to 30°C, while the ideal pH range is between 7 to 8. It is necessary to monitor water temperature and pH levels regularly and make adjustments as needed to maintain optimal conditions for the fish.
  • Oxygen Supply : Hilsa fish require a constant supply of oxygen to survive and thrive. The water should be well-aerated, and the dissolved oxygen levels should be maintained at a minimum of 5 ppm (parts per million). Inadequate oxygen supply can lead to stress, reduced growth, and increased mortality rates.
  • Salinity and Water Depth : Hilsa fish are anadromous, which means they can live in both fresh and saltwater. However, they are primarily found in estuaries and coastal waters with varying salinity levels. In hilsa fish farming, the salinity levels should be maintained between 15 to 30 ppt (parts per thousand) for optimal growth and survival. The water depth should be at least 2 meters to ensure that the fish have enough space to swim and move freely.

Preparations for Hilsa Fish Farming

Preparations for hilsa fish farming include pond construction, selection of fry and broodstock, feeding and management, and disease control measures. Pond construction requires careful planning and design to ensure optimal conditions for fish growth and survival. Selection of fry and broodstock is essential to obtain high-quality fish with desirable traits. Feeding and management practices play a critical role in ensuring the health and growth of the fish, while disease control measures are necessary to prevent the outbreak of diseases that can cause significant economic losses.

Pond Construction : The first step in hilsa fish farming is to construct a suitable pond or tank. The pond should have a minimum depth of 2 meters and be lined with a waterproof material such as polythene or cement to prevent seepage. The size of the pond will depend on the scale of the operation, but it is recommended to have a minimum of one acre for commercial farming.

Selection of Fry and Broodstock : The selection of fry and broodstock is a crucial aspect of hilsa fish farming. Fry can be obtained from hatcheries or wild catches, while broodstock is typically sourced from the wild. It is essential to select healthy fish with good genetic characteristics for breeding to ensure optimal growth and survival of the offspring. The fish should also be acclimatized to the pond environment before release.

Feeding and Management : Hilsa fish require a balanced diet to grow and thrive. In commercial farming, artificial feeds are commonly used, but natural feeds such as zooplankton and insect larvae can also be provided. It is essential to monitor feeding rates and adjust accordingly based on the growth of the fish. Regular pond management, including water exchange, removal of excess feed and waste, and maintaining proper water quality, is crucial to the success of the operation.

Disease Control Measures: Disease outbreaks can have a significant impact on hilsa fish farming, leading to decreased growth and mortality. To prevent and control diseases, farmers should practice good biosecurity measures, such as disinfecting equipment and limiting access to the pond. Regular health monitoring, including visual inspections and water quality testing, can help detect and prevent disease outbreaks. In case of an outbreak, prompt action should be taken, such as quarantine and treatment of affected fish.

Hilsa Fish Farming Techniques

There are several hilsa fish farming techniques, including pond culture, cage culture, pen culture, and raceway culture. Pond culture is the most popular method, where hilsa fish are reared in ponds using natural food sources or artificial feeds. Cage culture involves the use of floating cages or pens to rear hilsa fish in natural water bodies such as rivers or estuaries. Pen culture is a similar method but involves the use of fixed enclosures built in the water. Finally, raceway culture involves rearing hilsa fish in shallow channels or raceways constructed on land.

Pond Culture : Pond culture is the most common method used for hilsa fish farming. It involves the use of earthen ponds to culture the fish. The pond is typically stocked with fry or fingerlings, and the fish are grown to marketable size through regular feeding and pond management practices. The advantage of pond culture is that it can be implemented in various locations and is relatively low cost compared to other methods.

Cage Culture : Cage culture involves the use of floating cages in natural or man-made water bodies such as lakes, reservoirs, or rivers. The cages are stocked with fry or fingerlings, and the fish are grown to marketable size through regular feeding and management practices. Cage culture has the advantage of allowing for a higher stocking density and better water quality control compared to pond culture.

Pen Culture :Pen culture involves the use of pens or enclosures in natural or man-made water bodies. The pens are typically made of nets or bamboo and are used to keep the fish confined within a specific area. The fish are fed regularly and grown to marketable size within the pen. Pen culture has the advantage of being low cost and suitable for locations with limited land resources.

Raceway Culture :Raceway culture involves the use of artificial channels or tanks with a continuous water flow system. The channels or tanks are typically made of concrete or other materials and are used to culture the fish. The advantage of raceway culture is that it allows for a higher stocking density and better water quality control compared to pond culture.

Advantages, Challenges and Risks of Hilsa Fish Farming

Hilsa fish farming has several advantages, including economic benefits for farmers and the local community, nutritional benefits for consumers, and environmental benefits such as reducing the pressure on wild fish populations.

Despite the benefits, hilsa fish farming faces several challenges and risks, including high mortality rates, disease outbreaks, and high feed costs.

Marketing and Export of Hilsa Fish

The domestic demand for hilsa fish in India is high, and there is also a significant export market for hilsa fish. Processing and packaging of hilsa fish are essential to ensure quality and freshness for both domestic and export markets.

Domestic Demand for Hilsa Fish : In India, hilsa fish is considered a delicacy and is in high demand, particularly in the eastern and northeastern regions of the country. Hilsa fish is commonly consumed during festivals, weddings, and other special occasions. Due to its popularity, hilsa fish commands a premium price in the domestic market.

Export Market for Hilsa Fish : Hilsa fish is also in high demand in international markets, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Bangladesh is the largest exporter of hilsa fish, followed by Myanmar and India. The export market for hilsa fish is growing, and there is a significant opportunity for Indian farmers to enter this market and increase their revenue.

Processing and Packaging of Hilsa Fish : To meet the demands of the domestic and export markets, hilsa fish must be processed and packaged correctly. Hilsa fish is typically processed by gutting, scaling, and filleting. It is then packed in ice and transported to the market. In recent years, there has been a trend towards value addition, with hilsa fish being processed into ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat products such as fillets, smoked fish, and pickles. Good processing and packaging practices are essential to maintain the quality of the fish and ensure its safety for consumption.

Government Policies and Incentives for Hilsa Fish Farming

The Indian government has recognized the potential of hilsa fish farming and has implemented several policies and incentives to promote the industry. In this section, we will explore the various government schemes and incentives available to hilsa fish farmers.

Central Government Schemes

The central government of India has implemented several schemes to promote the development of hilsa fish farming. The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) provides financial assistance for the construction of ponds, purchase of equipment, and other related activities. The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) is a flagship scheme that aims to enhance fish production and productivity, modernize the fisheries sector, and create employment opportunities. Under this scheme, financial assistance is provided for the construction of fish ponds, purchase of inputs, and marketing of fish products.

State Government Schemes

Several state governments have also implemented schemes to promote hilsa fish farming. For example, the West Bengal government has launched the Bangla Krishi Sech Yojana, which provides subsidies for the construction of ponds, purchase of inputs, and marketing of fish products. The Odisha government has implemented the Mukhyamantri Krushi Udyoga Yojana, which provides financial assistance for the construction of fish ponds and purchase of inputs.

Tax Benefits and Subsidies

Hilsa fish farming is also eligible for various tax benefits and subsidies. For example, fish feed and fish seeds are exempt from GST, providing a significant cost-saving for farmers. The government also provides subsidies for the construction of fish ponds, purchase of inputs, and other related activities. These subsidies help to reduce the financial burden on farmers and make hilsa fish farming a more viable and attractive option.

Hilsa fish farming in India has come a long way, from the traditional method of capturing wild fish to modern farming techniques. Hilsa fish farming has significant economic, nutritional, and environmental benefits, but it also faces several challenges and risks. The government has implemented several policies and incentives to promote hilsa fish farming, and the future prospects for this industry in India look promising.

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