Update on Aquaculture target in the 11 FYP…

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…

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…

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;

Invitation for Bids…

National Centre for Aquaculture (NCA), Gelephu invites bids from eligible firms for the Supply of Fishing Gears, Aquaria, & General Tools & Instruments for the financial Year 2013-2014. The bid documents can be obtained from Administrative Section of the NCA on payment of Nu. 500/- per document (non refundable) with effect from 2nd August, 2013. The bids must be received at the NCA latest by 12 Noon of 2nd September, 2013, and shall be opened on the same day at 2PM.

For more information, please call +975-06-251128/ 251200.

Submitted by Administrative Officer, NCA.

Bhutanese aquaculture – A status quo and an outlook…

The current output of farmed fish in Bhutan is a mere 64 MT. This figure pales into insignificance when compared with the annual import of some 6000 MT (wet weight equivalent of fish) from neighbouring countries. The outflow of foreign monies, especially the Indian Rupee (INR), is estimated to be a minimum of Rs. 300 millions. A very speculative analysis of the available data approximates the current per capita consumption of fish in the kingdom at 8.27 kg and conjectures that the domestic output of farmed fish in 2020 will be some 100 MT. It is also speculated that some 7800 MT of fish will be imported to feed the country’s 809396 strong population in 2020. The per capita consumption then would be about 10 kg. It is apparent then that the aquaculture sector in the country has the tremendous responsibility of increasing the domestic output of fish, through farming or capture, toward contributing to national food security, generating employment and curtailing the outflow of foreign monies.

While an absolute substitution of import of fish in the next one decade appears implausible, the likelihood of enhancing the domestic output is high. In the 11th Five Year Plan (11 FYP), several key strategies will be executed to raise the domestic output to 150 MT. This would seem like a rather ambitious plan, given that the analysis of available data predicts a domestic output of a dismal 100 MT in 2020. However, considering that the foregoing prediction is not without flaws born of several limitations, including weak reporting at vital points in the value chain, there are rooms for constructive interventions, such as building of farmers’ institutions, to realize an output of 150 MT by the end of the 11 FYP.  National Centre for Aquaculture (NCA) intends to deliver these interventions in conjunction with creating an enabling environment for a vertical expansion of the fish farming sector. Horizontal expansion will follow as a result.

It is gratifying to note that aquaculture in the kingdom, in its present state, aligns perfectly with global endeavors and priorities born of growing concern for human health and the natural environment. For example, a bulk of the fish presently produced in the country qualifies to be called “organic” and “eco-friendly” because there is hardly any farmer in the country that makes use of inorganic pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics and fish meal or fish oil to grow fish; the energy consumption on Bhutanese fish farms is negligible when compared with that elsewhere in the world; and the tapping of the precious ground water to grow fish is non-existent. Fish farming in Bhutan has at its core species that feed low in the food chain and therefore helps sequester carbon. Given all these, there is ample scope for Bhutan to earn significant income through the “premium” that “organic” and “eco-friendly” fish would command. How and when we actually work to formally label our fish thus is a different task altogether though, requiring the coming together of several stakeholders.

The adverse impacts of climate change on aquaculture are manifesting all over the world and the affected nations have started to implement measures to adapt. In Bhutan too, climate change induced adverse effects on aquaculture have started to become visible. A group fish farming venture in Samtse has lost all its recently stocked fingerlings numbering some 6000 when a flash flood hit their pond very recently. Similarly some farmers in Chhuzagang geog of Sarpang have started to complain about not having enough water in their ponds. They say that in the late 80s they had ample water seeping out of the earth to fill up their ponds. So, the question that begs an answer is: Where did this water go? Now if incidences such as these are attributed to climate change, the message to Bhutan is clear: Aquaculture in Bhutan must prepare to render itself Climate-smart.