SHILLONG, Oct 22: A day for “fish lovers, fish sellers and fish watchers” is how Principal Secretary, Fisheries, K N Kumar, described the 2nd Meghalaya State Aqua Fest, 2014 organised at the premises of State Central Library on Wednesday by the Department of Fisheries, Government of Meghalaya.
In his opening remarks, KN Kumar said that the Aquafest is organised with the intention to encourage the production and consumption of local fish produced by local fish farmers or entrepreneurs.
Under the Aquaculture Mission, an integral part of the Integrated Basin Development and Livelihood Programme of the Government of Meghalaya, about Rs 75 crores has been invested for several activities relating to fisheries. So far, 7500 fish ponds have been supported under the mission with 10 fish ponds created per day. “The attempt is to create 20 fish ponds a day,” said KN Kumar.
Kumar also informed that since its launch on March 5, 2012 till date, 5681 fish ponds have entered production cycle while around 20,000 ponds are still in varied stages and will come into production cycle by 2015. He also informed that under this Mission, 12 Eco Hatcheries have been set up and 7 of these have come into the production cycle and that there has been an improvement in production of fingerlings in the state.
“Fish production from these ponds have started coming to the market and they have been able to add to the existing production of fish by over 3000-4000 MT,” he said while pointing out that before the mission was launched, the state-own production was only 4000-5000 MT annually.
He added, at present the state is still facing a demand and supply gap of about 28, 000 MT, which has to be imported from Andra Pradesh and Assam.
The Chief Guest at the occasion was Minister, Health & Family Welfare, A. L. Hek who, in his speech, said that instead of buying fish from outside the state which not only takes weeks to arrive but also hikes up the rate due to transportation, middle men and wholesalers before reaching the consumers, the local fish farmers should take the opportunity of harvesting their own fish. “The Department of Fisheries long with the Aquaculture Mission is there to help fish farmers of the state,” said Hek who also cited the example of places like Thailand and Singapore where fresh fish is cooked right out of the aquariums as per the preference of the customer and said that local farmers should also think of different ways to market their fishes.
Moreover, the problem of unemployment can be solved if people, especially those in the rural areas, take up fish farming as one of their occupation, opined Hek.
The Guest of Honour, Chief Secretary, Government of Meghalaya, PBO Warjri stressed on the need to look at fishes as decorative elements such as in aquariums because “That is where the money lies”. He also added that small fishes are found aplenty in local rivers like Wah Umngot in Dawki and others. He urged fish farmers to look into many other ways of preserving fish other than eating.
Principal Secretary, Planning Department and CEO, Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA), RM Mishra, in his address, called the Aquaculture Mission, a Star Mission of the Integrated Basin Development & Livelihood Promotion (IBDLP) programme because it is under this mission that most of the success stories are created. “It is a well integrated program which includes financial inclusion and it is a platform that brings to par the urban and the rural people in such an event,” he said.
Around 50 stalls were set up in which farmers coming from the six districts of Khasi Jaintia Hills region participated in the fest.
Last year, the aqua fest has successfully sold 10 MT of fish within a span of two days.
The Chief Guest also distributed cash awards of Rs. 10,000 and mementoes to the best fish farmers from each district which included S Kurkalang from Mylliem Block, EKH, R Laru from Umsning Block, Ri Bhoi district, W Marbaniang from Mairang Block, West Khasi Hills (WKH) district, B K Nongtnger from Ranikor Block, South West Khasi Hills (SWKH) district, Sengborlang Women Self Help Group from West Jaintia Hills (WJH) district, R Pohtam from East Jaintia Hills (EJH) district, N Ch Marak from Betasing Block, South West Garo Hills (SWGH) district, S R Marak from Gambegre Block, West Garo Hills (WGH) district, P Sangma from North Garo Hills (NGH) district and R R Marak from East Garo Hills (EGH) district.
Winners of drawing and painting competitions for school students on the theme ‘Fish for Life’ were also felicitated during the inaugural programme.