Giant freshwater prawn contributes to income enhancement of inland fishers-BY NIMAL WIJESINGHE

Giant freshwater prawn contributes to income enhancement of inland fishers-BY NIMAL WIJESINGHE


Inland fisheries are crucial for many socially, economically and nutritionally vulnerable groups of people around the world. The increasing recognition of inland fisheries in development discourses has also encouraged research to enhance knowledge on the importance of inland fisheries.

Increasing domestic demand for fish and fishery products in the countries of the southern hemisphere, such as Thailand, Indonesia and China that has been driven by the confluence of urbanisation, and rising incomes of people triggered by the international trade under the open economic policy, prompted concerns about food and nutritional security linked to fish and fishery products.

Enviornmentaly friendly way of growing fish

Fisheries enhancement, which is defined as limited technological interventions in the life cycle of common pool fishery resources, and combines attributes of aquaculture (intervention in the life cycle of aquatic organisms) and capture fisheries (exploitation of common pool resources) in a unique way, is a strategy of achieving high fish yields per unit area of the habitat. Aquaculture-based fisheries or culture-based fisheries (CBF) is an environmentally friendly fisheries enhancement approach to increase fish yield per unit area.

In CBF, the hatchery-reared juveniles are released to the natural habitats such as reservoirs, to recapture after a sufficient growth period. As these stocked juvenile fish or prawns feed on natural food sources available in the habitats, artificial feeding is not necessary, making this strategy an environmentally friendly venture.

In Sri Lanka, CBF development in small village reservoirs, most of which are non-perennial and are not traditionally used for capture fisheries production, is essentially a rural development activity because at all stages of CBF including stocking, management of stocked fish, harvesting and marketing, active participation of rural people is in place. Due to initiatives of Government Fisheries Authorities and considerable scientific inputs, CBF development has been getting a momentum in Sri Lankan reservoirs.

In 2003, as an initiative of the Aquatic Resource Development and Quality Improvement Project (ARDQIP) of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, medium sized (200-800 ha) and large (>800 ha) reservoirs of Sri Lanka were utilised for the development of CBF. Generally, Chinese and Indian major carps, common carp and Nile tilapia are stocked in reservoirs annually for CBF development.

At presently, three giant freshwater prawn hatcheries of NAQDA produce over 50 million post larvae annually. This freshwater prawn (FWP) post larvae are also stocked indifferent kinds of reservoirs. In addition, a private sector aquaculture enterprise also operates a small-scale freshwater prawn hatchery and FWP post larvae produced in this hatchery are also stocked in selected reservoirs.

Although freshwater prawns do not form a significant proportion of the culture based fisheries (CBF) production members of the rural fisheries organisations of several reservoirs have decided to stock post larvae of freshwater prawn in reservoirs, due to the reason that it is fetched at a higher price such as Rs. 300 – 1300 per kg compared to other finfish species groups

According to the NAQDA information sources it is targeted to harvest around 352000 mt of freshwater fish and aquaculture products in 2025 with fingerlings and prawns post larvae production increased up to 422 and 200 million.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has previously (1995-2003) supported two research projects for the management of reservoir fisheries and development of CBF in non-perennial reservoirs in Sri Lanka.

In response to the recommendation of the 2016 ACIAR scoping study ‘Re-engagement in agricultural research for development partnerships in Sri Lanka’ a new project proposal was developed for ACIAR funding. This project duration will be four years that is July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2025 period.

This has direct relevance to three key policies under the National Policy Framework: Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour. The three key policies relevant to this development plan are as per DW the cabinet decision,

(i) People centric economic development

(ii) Sustainable Environmental Management

(iii) Technology based Society.

Fresh water giant shrimps farming within Sri Lanka has been identified as a promising trade drawing a lucrative income with a higher potential to be developed and ensure benefits to the rural fisher folks’ community. It has been further identified appropriate to conduct scientific research since the young shrimps are not scientifically released to the fresh water resources.

In this context, the Government has accepted a Cabinet resolution for implementing such a research project in conjunction with Wayamba, Ruhuna and Jaffna Universities, the NAQDA NARA and the Australia’s James Cook University as well as entering in to a research agreement among the applicable institutions. The project covers Trincomalee, Batticalo, Moneragala, Anuradhapura, Hambantota, Puttalam and Kurunegala Districts.

The title of the project is ‘Improved productivity, efficiency and sustainability of the culture-based fishery for finfish and giant freshwater prawn in Sri Lankan reservoirs.’The project aims to introduce a robust, science-based management regime for the culture-based fishery of giant freshwater prawn and finfish species in Sri Lankan reservoirs, and improve facets of the supply chain that will ensure long term sustainability, improve productivity, profitability, livelihoods and incomes of local men and women, and impact positively on overall rural wellbeing.

The objectives of the project are to

Investigate stocking, monitoring and harvesting practices, including development of biodynamic models, that optimise fish and giant fresh water prawns production, product quality and sustainability;

Conduct an inclusive, complete market chain analysis from harvest to plate, to ensure post-harvest and supply practices meet market requirements and both male and female actors in the supply chain gain maximum benefits;

Assess the economic performance of reservoir fisheries and identify changes in management practices that can increase their economic value for local communities; and

Determine opportunities and constraints to achieving socially equitable livelihood benefits from culture-based fisheries.

Professor Upali Amarasinghe (Co-leader – Sri Lanka) attached to the Department of Zoology and Environmental Management of Kelaniya University said referring to the project. That the project would be led by James Cook University (JCU), Australia in collaboration with the National Aquaculture Development Authority of Sri Lanka (NAQDA), Wayamba University of Sri Lanka (WUSL) and University of Ruhuna (UoR). NAQDA is the primary governmental agency responsible for development of aquaculture and inland fisheries and related policy development and execution.

The Sri Lankan universities are selected for the availability of expertise in fisheries and aquaculture, and previous experiences in collaborative research funded by foreign donor agencies including ACIAR in the subject area.10 district namely Monaragala, Anuradhapura, Mullaithivu, Hambantota, Killinochchi are used to implement the project.

Fish production from the reservoirs is predominantly consumed by the local communities, providing a significant proportion of protein requirements.

In addition to a variety of finfish species, giant freshwater prawn has become part of the stocking for CBF in recent years. The harvests of giant freshwater prawn are not used for local consumption but are sold to high-end restaurants and hotels in Sri Lanka or are exported. Their value is about eight times higher per kilogram than the finfish species, i.e. approximately Rs1300 per kilogram as compared with Rs 150 per kilogram for the finfish species.

The project will provide mechanisms to increase fish and prawn production in currently stocked reservoirs, and also extend CBF to additional reservoirs, thus contributing to livelihoods, poverty alleviation and food security in reservoir communities, professor Amarasinghe explained further.

Giant freshwater prawns are a high valued fishery product, in great demand in Asia and particularly in Thailand and China. Over the past 10 years, world GFP production, primarily from aquaculture rather than CBF has fallen, while demand has increased. Although the combined aquaculture production of GFP from China, Bangladesh, Thailand and India has exceeded 200,000 tonnes, this has fallen in the past five years due to issues with post-larval supply and other factors.

Sri Lankan CBF-produced GFPs have unique characteristics; they are mostly live product rather than frozen, are of large size (300g as compared with 200g from aquaculture), and are considered as organic because of the natural production, all of which provide a premium in price. Prospects for increasing price paid for Sri Lankan GFP, while production is increased through improved CBF practices arising from this project, are strong. By studying the supply chain from reservoir to consumer, the project will seek to maximise the value of the product and improve the return to the fishers.

The culture-based fisheries of Sri Lanka provide two primary benefits, firstly, the fish production contributes to food security, providing much needed protein for the local communities adjacent to the reservoirs and nearby, secondly, the giant freshwater prawn production provides substantial income, which may contribute significantly to livelihoods, poverty reduction and provide a stimulus to the local economy.

Enhancing giant fresh water prawn production

According to Prof. Amarasinghe the core issue to be addressed in the proposed research is the enhancement of the giant freshwater prawn production, within the context of improving the management, livelihood and food security outcomes of the entire fishery comprising finish and GFP.

Increased production of GFP alone will have the greatest benefit and impact due to its high value, and this will be pursued within strategies to increase reservoir fishery production overall (fish and prawns).

There are currently approximately 675 reservoirs stocked with GFP under the auspices of NAQDA, representing some 2500 fisher families. Through preliminary studies, it is envisaged that enhancement of the existing prawn stocked reservoirs and addition of new reservoirs, could benefit more than 10,000 families directly, and many more indirectly.

NAQDA’s role in the project is comprehensive as it will be involved in all aspects of the research and communication of results. NAQDA will provide the interface between research findings and recommendations for revised stocking strategies and CBF management, and the reservoir communities, through their respective Fisheries Societies.

The NAQDA extension staff will operate side by side with project researchers to facilitate the surveys for supply chain, economics and social science investigations. NAQDA will provide the giant freshwater prawn post-larvae for research purposes, and their staff (hatchery staff and extension officers) will work alongside the University researchers for the reservoir research activities.

NAQDA will be responsible for communicating CBF policy recommendations, arising from the project, to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Applyin culture based fishery practices

Dr. K.B.C. ,a team leader representing NAQDA attached to the study program told to Sunday Observer that the productivity of the fisheries resources of Sri Lankan reservoirs has been improved through application of culture-based fishery (CBF) practices.

The term culture based fishery refers to communally managed production of juveniles that is prawn post larvae and finish fry. through aquaculture practices and the stocking of those juveniles into reservoir, to create or enhance a fishery for those species.

In addition to a variety of finish that serve to provide protein to rural island communities adjacent to reservoirs, the addition of stoked giant freshwater prawn (GFP) has added significant value due to high market price 10 times higher than that of finfish. Currently the GFP are captured as a by catch to finfish and the stocking practices are ad-hoc, resulting in very low yield per seed prawn stocked.

This fishery is managed as a single multi- species fishery and although the project will focus on research of GFP, some aspects of the research will involve the entire fishery particularly modelling of stocking and yields.

This will provide benefits for production of all species with an emphasis on enhancement of GFP production through specific research of stocking practices, production dynamics, interactive affects among stocked and naturally recruited species, harvest and socio – economic aspects of the fishery and the supply chain.

It should be noted that all products such as fish and prawns arising from CBF have a better reputation for consumers than equivalent products from traditional aquaculture. The project aims to introduce a robust science- based management regime for the culture based fishery of macro.macro brachium resenbergil (giant fresh water prawn) finish species in Sri Lanka reservoirs and improve facets of the supply chain that will ensure long term sustainability, improve productivity profitability, livelihoods and incomes of local men and women and impact positively on overall rural wellbeing, Dr Pushpalatha emphasised.

She said that NAQDA has three fresh water prawn breeding centres at Kahawamodara in Hambanthota district Pambala in Puttlam and Kallavawa in Trincomalee District to produce post larvae of fresh water prawns. Wayamba and Ruhuna Universities have proven capacity in fisheries, biology, resource management and socio-economic disciplines. Both have collaborated in previous internationally funded projects (including ACIAR) in the subject area.

There will be further capacity building in these two universities through involvement in the project and the contributions from high calibre scientists from both Sri Lanka and Australia, engaged by the project.

Individual capacity building will be a particular focus, with planned post-graduate study programs for at least five young scientists who will be employed as research assistants by the project. The project will inform strategies that are likely to lead to changes in reservoir communities’ knowledge, attitudes, assets, skills, and equity, and, hence, their adoption of best practices for culture-based fisheries. Increased adoption and best practices are likely to lead to improvements in stocking, management, harvesting, and marketing, leading to increases in the production and quality of reservoir finfish and GFP.

The inclusive market chain analysis is likely to identify new domestic and export market opportunities, as well as constraints within current supply chains and opportunities for improving these chains for the men and women involved.

The social science research will inform strategies to ensure men and women in the reservoir communities are empowered to meet their livelihood goals through engaging with CBF, and that other outcomes of the project are equitably distributed and accessible.

The social science research will also contribute to developing management and capacity building strategies that align with and enhance existing governance and management structures to maximise sustainable ecological, social, and economic outcomes of CBF.

After careful implementation of the research findings, these opportunities will provide significant livelihood and employment opportunities for women and men in local fishery communities.

The project has a significant focus on strengthening inclusive capacity of project partners. All in all, the project findings will place inland fisheries management on a firmer footing ensuring sustainability and improved livelihood opportunities for the country’s fishery community in rural areas.

Also, the findings will supplement previous findings from ACIAR-funded CBF projects in the Asian region, thereby contributing to inclusive guidelines for effective implementation of culture-based fisheries in lacustrine waters in the region.

This will enhance fish production and contribute to inclusive poverty alleviation in rural communities through engagement in fisheries activities. Indeed, the overall increase in inland fisheries production through adoption of culture-based fisheries in lakes and reservoirs will supplement fish production from aquaculture development in the region.

Culture-based fisheries

Culture-based fisheries in reservoirs are environmentally benign, will be sustainable in the long term and will generate inclusive benefits for the whole region. The results can be extended into other continents such as Africa which has lagged behind in fish production and effective utilisation of available inland waters for fish production and improvement of rural nutrition.

The fisheries management committees will be encouraged to maintain transparency and hold annual meetings of the membership where members of the research team will be invited and healthy dialogue among all members encouraged; as far as possible efforts will be made to minimise political interference and particularly so in respect of stocking strategies which should be conducted based on viable scientific information only.

As the project proceeds and the understanding of management strategies become apparent, the researchers will continue to apprise the fishery societies of the relevant findings and developments at their monthly meetings; these interactions will also provide the opportunity to receive feedback on the potential changes and accordingly fine tune the management strategies that are to be put in place.

The exit strategy will also include provision to the NAQDA of a protocol for determining the suitability of reservoirs for adoption of Culture Based Fisheries (CBF) in each of the districts. This outcome will become the policy of NAQDA, and suitable, easily comprehensible information fact sheets will be prepared for distribution to the reservoir fisheries societies.

Comments are closed.