Towards reducing the import of fish…

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Trade data put Bhutan’s import of fish  in 2012 at 4853 Metric Tonnes (wet weight equivalent) which loosely translates to an outflow of foreign monies, especially the INR, worth at least Nu. 350 millions. Given this, fish farming undoubtedly has a substantial potential to contribute to the country’s efforts to reduce the import of goods to minimize the outflow of foreign monies.

As to Bhutan’s potential to engage in fish farming, it is significant. Dzongkhags like Samdrupjongkhar, Sarpang, Samtse, Tsirang, Dagana, and Pemagatshel have the necessary climatic and topographical attributes to enhance the national output of fish by engaging in large scale fish farming. At the moment, Samdrupjongkhar, the country’s top fish producing Dzongkhag, alone produces some 35 MT per year. If it were to farm fish on Government Reserved Forest (GRF) land, community water bodies, and peripheral wetland that cannot be used for terrestrial agriculture due to depredation by wild elephants and other wild animals, Samdrupjongkhar could increase its yearly fish output by hundreds of tonnes. Other Dzongkhags could do the same. Additionally, the existing fish farming infrastructure in these Dzongkhags could be scaled-up and rendered more sophisticated to increase the national output of fish.

An attractive technology to produce fish that has never been tried in Bhutan is cage culture. An underrated benefit of the several hydro-power generating infrastructure that have been built/ are being built in the country is the usefulness of the water holding dams/ reservoirs therein for the purpose of producing fish. Cages to farm fish could be installed in these waters, and leased out to able farmers’ groups/ cooperatives wherever feasible. Also, hatchery bred fingerlings of fast growing fish species that would not cause appreciable negative environmental impact could be released directly into these impounded waters for harvesting at table size by farmers groups/ cooperatives.

National Centre for Aquaculture (NCA) has prepared a strategy which if executed would enable Bhutan to produce 1500 MT of fish per year by 2015-2016. Executing the strategy would call for huge investments to, among other things, (i) build fish farm infrastructure and farmer based institutions, (ii) enhance the capacity of livestock/ fisheries extension professionals and fish farmers alike, (iii) increase the capacity of input producers/ hatcheries, (iv) put into place an effective marketing system, and (v) improve and diversify cultivable fish species/ breeds. The benefits of the strategy would also be huge; dramatically increased farmers’ income, increased availability of almost-organic fish protein, reduced import of fish, gainful utilization of peripheral wetlands that are otherwise let fallow due to depredation by wildlife, etc. The strategy has been submitted to higher authorities for endorsement.

In the meantime, the NCA continues to provide support to farmers to establish fish farms. At the moment, the centre is engaged in supporting the establishment of 10 commercial sized fish farms in Sarpang, 17 in Samdrupjongkhar, 20 in Samtse, and 8 in Dagana.

If you are interested to establish a fish farm and require assistance/ information, please contact Mr. Gopal Prasad Khanal at the NCA @ 17334742 or Mr. Drukpola @ 17700180.

Call for Expression of Interest…

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National Centre for Aquaculture (NCA) invites Expression of Interest from national consultancy firms for the following works to be executed as part of a three-year project funded by Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) to conserve the endangered Golden Mahaseer:

  1. Preparation of designs, drawings, and estimates for a Hatchery Cum Conservation Facility (two-storied structure) for Golden Mahaseer and other native fish species;
  2. Preparation of bidding documents to invite bids for the construction of the said Hatchery Cum Conservation Facility; and
  3. Supervision of the construction of the said Hatchery Cum Conservation Facility.

The (i) Terms of Reference (ToR) and (ii) Bidding Document for the assignment being offered can be obtained from the Administrative Section of the NCA on payment of a non-refundable amount of Nu.300/- from 9 AM of October 28 till 2 PM of November 7, 2013. You may also download the ToR below:

Download Link

The bids must be received at the NCA latest by 11 AM of November 14, 2013 and shall be opened at 2 PM the same day.

For more information, please call 06-251200 or 06-251190.

Update on Aquaculture target in the 11 FYP…

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The target for Aquaculture program during the 11th Five Year Plan in the country in terms of output of wet fish has seen a spectacular increase in the last couple of months. From the initial 100 MT to the interim 500 MT to the presently set 750 MT, the target has increased by 650 %. This means that the Department of Livestock (DoL) now has the challenging responsibility of enabling the farmers in the kingdom to collectively produce 750 MT of fish per annum by the year 2018. The targets for other livestock commodities under the department have also seen such increases. For example, the targeted output of chicken meat has increased from the initial 909 MT to the presently set 1200 MT. Such revisions of targeted outputs of livestock products/ fish are strongly indicative of the DoL’s efforts to support the government’s endeavor to reduce import of livestock products toward curtailing the outflow of foreign monies, especially the Indian Rupee.

Keep visiting this site for further updates as they come to pass.

The MHPA pitches in to conserve the Golden Mahaseer…

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In response to a request for support made in the form of a project, prepared and submitted in late March, 2013, by National Centre for Aquaculture (NCA), Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) has pitched in with a grant of Nu.12.964 Millions. The grant MoU was signed between Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and the MHPA on 31st July, 2013. The grant is a tangible manifestation of the MHPA’s commitment to preserve the kingdom’s natural environment, and will be utilized principally to:

  1. Establish a state of the art hatchery cum conservation complex for the endangered Golden Mahaseer and other sub-tropical fish species at the NCA. The blue print for the structure was prepared with the assistance of fisheries experts from Thailand’s Department of Fisheries who visited the NCA in late June, 2013;
  2. Educate the MHPA-affected riparian communities toward bolstering the kingdom’s efforts to conserve the endangered Golden Mahaseer and other relevant fish species; and
  3. Raise awareness and build collaboration amongst major stakeholders toward strengthening the nation’s efforts to conserve the endangered Golden Mahaseer and other relevant fish species.

The MHPA-funded project began on 1st August, 2013 and will terminate on 30th June, 2016. In implementing it, the NCA will solicit the support and cooperation of important stakeholders such as Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), National Environment Commission (NEC), and National Centre for Lake and Riverine Fisheries (NCLR&F). The project is intended to create a system wherein Golden Mahaseer from different waters in the kingdom is bred and the resultant fingerlings are released back into the waters from where the parent fish had come. During the project period, the NCA will focus on breeding the species found in Mangdechhu-basin. In the future, species from the other waters will receive attention.

The project is already underway. At the moment of composing this write up, a team of fisheries personnel from the NCA are scouring the length and breadth of Mangdechhu and its tributaries to collect viable breeders and juveniles of Golden Mahaseer and Chocolate Mahseer (Neolissochilus Hexagonolepis). In this activity, the team from the NCA is being assisted by personnel from the DoFPS and a few residents of Berti village who have been hired to provide guidance and physical labor.

500 MT of fish by 2018…

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Considering the serious need to curtail import of fish, and the corresponding outflow of the INR, the preponderant objective of the aquaculture program during the 11 Five Year Plan has been raised from 100 MT to 500 MT of fish. This means that by 2018, Bhutanese farmers must be enabled to produce a total of 500 MT of fish per annum. While seemingly daunting for a landlocked country with a mountainous terrain, this is not an entirely impossible task. What is called for is a combination of new ideas and new methods to execute old ideas. Anyway, to achieve the new objective of producing 500 MT of fish by 2018, the following important activities will be resorted to in the 11 FYP:

  1. Encourage adoption and scaling up of fish farming ventures;
  2. Technological interventions to enhance productivity;
  3. Culture Based Capture Fisheries (CBCF) in community water bodies/ common access water bodies;
  4. Farmers’ institution building;
  5. Breed enhancement and diversification;
  6. Public-Private-Partnerships to produce live inputs, especially stunted fingerlings; and
  7. Skills dissemination and capacity building;