CIFA successfully breeds rare fish species 'Haragi Meenu'

CIFA successfully breeds rare fish species 'Haragi Meenu'


"The hatchlings are presently doing well in CIFA's nursery. Breeding of this fish in captivity is expected to be the first step in its propagation to return the fish to its former glory in rivers as well as exploiting its aquaculture potential," Prof Raghunath of CIFA said.

He said the fish, weighing 4-5 kg once formed an important part of the commercial fishery sector, but the alarming decline in numbers in the last 10 years resulted in even small fish of the species seldom being spotted in commercial catches

CIFA decided to breed this species as it is not only a much sought after delicacy in Western Ghat region, but also commands a high price and has the potential to control aquatic weeds. "We felt it necessary to conserve the species as part of our rich biodiversity heritage", he said.

Attempts to breed the fish as early as the 1970s proved futile as adult specimens from rivers and reservoirs in good breeding condition were seldom available.

Worried over the rapid decline, especially in the Tunga and Periyar rivers, CIFA initiated a programme to collect young fish of this species from rivers in 2003 to establish a captive population. The fish was adapted to static waters of aquaculture ponds after some initial problems.

Raghunath said the fish attained a size of 1.2 kg (43 cm), after which the first signs of sexual maturity in male fish was noticed in July 2007 through "an attractive pink rough surface (tubercles) on their snouts".

The appearance of tubercles was, however, seasonal and disappeared after three-to four months. The female fishes did not exhibit any clear sign of maturity, compounding problems of identifying them as well as their readiness to breed.

The lack of clear distinguishing features in females and their negative response to classical fish breeding methods occupied the Centre's scientists for the next two years.

"Though sex identification problem of females was overcome in 2008 by a technique called Trust Network Analysis, lack of response to classical breeding methods was puzzling," he said.

Success finally smiled on CIFA this year when the fishes were bred using a combination of natural and synthetic hormones and 'stripping' of fishes.

Raghunath said CIFA has over the years developed several need-based viable technologies that contribute to more than a third of total fish production at present. Till today, CIFA has generated 16 freshwater aquaculture technologies which are under various stages of adoption, he said.

These technologies cover a complete set of packages and practices from seed production and pond management to post harvest processing.

Raghunath said CIFA scientists pioneered induced breeding of carps in the sixties, which has since been applied to a wide variety of fishes throughout India. It has enabled mass production of fish seed (young fish), critical for large-scale fish production and aquaculture.

To diversify the basket of species in aquaculture, CIFA has also introduced more species of fish into the fold of aquaculture including Kemmeen (Labeo Fimbriatus), Olive barb (Puntius Sarana), Climbing Perch (Anabas testudineus) Magur (Clarias batrachus) and Silver Barb (Puntius gonionatus).

More than 80 species of fish and shellfish are cultured today in Asia, compared to a relatively smaller number in India. "It is essential to bring in a greater number of fish and shellfish (diversification) into the culture system to fully utilise all ecological riches and re-establish endangered species", Raghunath said.

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