Boost for fish farmers of Sikkim: First ever Fish Mela held at Sikkim.

Sikkim, when it comes to fish farming in state of Sikkim, rainbow trout and exotic carps (grass carp; Ctenopharyngodon idella, silver carp; Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and common carp; Cyprinus carpio) are one of the most suitable types of fish which can be farmed in the state as due to high altitude and climatic conditions.

Originally the Sikkimese population had little to do with fish consumption and fish farming. However at present time, with emerging knowledge of fish as a functional food and superior protein compared to other animal meat, fish consumption is becoming popular. As a result of this, the demand for fi sh in the state has reached 550 MT but the present production is only 160 MT (120 MT from capture and 40 MT from cultured; data obtained from DOF, Sikkim). Therefore, it would not be misleading to say that most of the demand for fish is being met largely through import from other states, mainly Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. However, nature has gifted Sikkim with ample water bodies suitable for farming exotic carp species in the lower belt and rainbow trout in higher.

Prior to 2008-2009, the development program for fisheries was confined to conservation of riverine fisheries, production and stocking of brown trout seed in the cold water streams and lakes for promoting angling but not for generation of livelihood for the farmers.

However after 2008-2009, DOF has been moving with all possible speed in promoting fi sh farming to provide additional livelihood options for farmers, along with the technical and research support from DCFR. Down the line, DOF and DCFR are working hand-in-hand to harness the available water resources for the development of profit table aquaculture ventures.

In doing so, DOF has started running water exotic carp culture (2008-09) and introduced raceway systems for trout culture (2009-10) with the financial support of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) and the Fisheries Developmental Plan of the state government (FDP). Although the fisheries office was created in the late 1970s as a wing under Forest Department, it became a Directorate in 1995.

Fish farming in Sikkim is in initial stage although the fisheries related activities were carried out date back from the inception of Fisheries Development Wing under Forest Department, but the activities of those times were mainly the propagation and conservation of trout (both rainbow and brown) and other naturally available hill stream fishes in rivers and lakes. But only very recently, the DOF has started promoting farming of exotic carps in mid hills and rainbow trout at higher altitudes for food security, farm income and sustainable rural livelihoods.

According to the data of Directorate of Fisheries Sikkim, state of Sikkim has more than 1,200 exotic carp farmers and 240 trout farmers.

Amar Bhadhur Gurung of Upper Shripadam, West Sikkim who has been into fish farming since 2012 said

“I am a fish farmer, and have been farming since 2012, I harvest rainbow trout and I earn handsomely and by fish farming I raise my family, every month I sell fish weighing up to 300kg”

Looking into the scope and vacant space in the fish market of today the Directorate of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services Department, Government of Sikkim in collaboration with the National Fisheries Development Board, Hyderabad, Government of India came up with an initiative to organize first ever fish mela to boost and encourage more and more people to indulge with fish harvesting and farming and The main purpose of organizing the Fish Mela was to encourage the youth to take up fisheries as an entrepreneurship, with the objective to promote fish farming and to meet up growing demands of fish in the State.

The fish mela was organized at the capital on April 20 and 21 where more than 40 fish farmers from all four districts participated also prizes were given to the best performing stalls.

Bhim subba a fish farmer from west Sikkim said “ it is a great initiative by the state government who is trying their best to boost small business like ours, it will encourage to do more and we hope this fish mela continue every calendar year”

“ The market for fish is still vacant in Sikkim, since still we buy fish from outside and consume which says that there is market and opportunity, and by these type of educational melas we gain these sort of knowledge and even encourage to do more, so I thank the government for educating us” said another farmer from south Sikkim

Lok Nath Sharma minister for Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services Departments said “The objective of organizing Fish Mela in the State is to generate higher rural economy through fish farming and contribute a remarkable role in making Sikkim, a self-reliant state.”

”I appeal to the youths to adopt the profession of fish farming and other livestock farming to build their future and also the unemployed youth and farmers to involve themselves in fish farming to meet up the growing demands”

“ If anyone wants to start fish farming the state government will also provide help and I advise to those youths to kindly submit an application at the concerned District Level Office to get benefitted from all required inputs, including tanks, feeds and other technical supports to start up the fish farming.” he added