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Mariculture Emerging as a Lucrative Business Prospect for India's Coastal Regions: CMFRI

According to a new study by the ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), mariculture has emerged as a promising commercial prospect for India's coastal districts, delivering reasonable income to coastal people even as extreme weather occurrences like cyclones reduce fishing days every year.

Shivam Dwivedi
Andhra Pradesh found open sea cage culture more profitable, while Tamil Nadu found IMTA more profitable
Andhra Pradesh found open sea cage culture more profitable, while Tamil Nadu found IMTA more profitable

According to the study, cage fish farming in the open sea and coastal waters might generate an additional income of up to 3 lakh per unit. The study looked at the social, environmental, technical, and economic aspects of 159 mariculture units in six coastal states, including Kerala, such as cage farming, seaweed production, and Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA).

The revolutionary IMTA approach of combining mussel or seaweed production with cage fish aquaculture yielded even higher revenues of 3.25 lakh per unit. Profitability in coastal water cage farming was higher in Kerala than in other coastal states, with approximately 40% of such units in the state earning between 2 lakh and 3 lakh every season. Andhra Pradesh found open sea cage farming to be more profitable, whilst Tamil Nadu discovered IMTA to be more profitable.

The work was published in the international scientific journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems under the title "Sustainable intensification of small-scale mariculture systems: Farm-level insights from India's coastal districts." Shinoj Parappurathu, senior scientist at the CMFRI, led the study, which found that mariculture increased employment and gender involvement in coastal communities across the country.

In an eight-month season, one unit of marine cage farming and the IMTA created 175-396 person-days of work. Estimated employment varies by enterprise and geography. The use of antibiotics was not documented in any of the farms. Yet, many farmers in Kerala who practice coastal water cage farming were discovered to be overstocking their cages. Given the growing need for seaweed-based goods for culinary, pharmacological, and other industrial uses, seaweed production along potential farming locations was found to be highly promising.

The CMFRI study also revealed sector difficulties, such as a lack of high-quality seed and feed. Less than half of farmers obtained high-quality seed for cultivation. Another important barrier in the business was stated to be limited access to institutional credit to fulfil capital and operating costs.

"Adequate legislative mechanisms are essential to ensure farmers' rightful access to open water bodies. Respective state governments should act to provide this protection to farmers in order to increase production," said Shinoj Parappurathu. He noted that the lack of legislative provisions casts a shadow over this promising sector, hampered large-scale corporate aspirations in mariculture.

The study proposes strengthening food safety protocols and health management systems in mariculture farms; developing marine spatial plans for the optimal allocation of available ocean space; enacting market reforms to facilitate the development of competitive value chains; and implementing specialized schemes to support auxiliary prerequisites such as credit, insurance, and other support services.

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