With the population of the hilsa dwindling rapidly in Indian waters, a team of scientists from across the country have embarked on a project to save the fish, considered a delicacy in Bengali cuisine, and revive its numbers through various interventions.
Their efforts include efficient management of the natural reservoirs of the fish and even attempting to breed it in captivity. The fish’s diet and its hormonal changes while migrating from the sea to rivers will also be examined.
Hilsa, or ilish as it is known here in Bengal, like salmon, migrates from seawater to freshwater to breed. After laying eggs, the current generation of the fish dies and the newly hatched ones go back to the sea and repeat the same cycle again.
The fish is expensive but is widely consumed in India and Bangladesh, particularly on special occasions, in a variety of delectable dishes.
“It is important to know what the hilsa feeds on that gives it its distinct seawater taste and accounts for its nutritive value,” a scientist from Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI) here, who did not wish to be named.
Besides the CIFRI, experts from other Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) labs, too, are part of the multi-dimensional project, said the scientist, who did not want to be named.