PESHAWAR: Following the Turkish model of fish farming, the provincial government has decided to increase the production of trout fish by using underwater cages as part of fish farming ships.
For this purpose, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has finalised a three-year pilot project to install cages in dams and lakes across the province.
While fish farming is an old practice in K-P, the fisheries department has for the first time decided to initiate trout production through cages in the cold waters of Diamer with the help of large farming ships, The Express Tribune has learned.
This cage system – often referred to as “off-shore cultivation” – is a method wherein fish are locked in cages where they are bred and are harvested when they reach a certain marketable size.
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The government has allocated Rs26 million for the project, work on which has already commenced on an experimental basis.
As a starting point, the tendering process to purchase two purpose-built cages and a large ship for Diamer-Bhasha Dam has been completed. The process of establishing a shelter office, installing the cages, and construction of a store for fish feed is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, the director of appointment for trout fish farming Taj Muhammad said that they are likely to outsource the project of installing the ship and the cages to a private firm after inviting tenders, while the department will look after the production of fish, food, and other affairs.
“The first phase of the project is being carried out on an experimental basis,” Muhammad explained. “If it turns out to be successful, then it will be expanded to other dams of the province as well.”
Explaining the advantages of cage farming, Muhammad said that the method will not only increase the production of trout fish in the province but will also create awareness about the new fish farming method among the people of the province.
“The idea of the project came from Turkey,” Muhammad conceded, adding, “A few months ago, a K-P delegation, which included the K-P Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Mohibullah Khan had toured Turkey, where they got a chance to get a closer look at some modern methods of cage farming and how it plays an important role in the Turkish economy.”
At present, Turkey is at the top of its game in fish farming and is rapidly expanding the industry. The country exports different types of fish to many countries of the world and utilises about 91% of its marine water resource for the purpose.
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, Turkey produces more than 172,492 tonnes of fish annually through cage farming and other farming methods. A chunk of this production is related to trout harvesting in cold water.
In 2016, Turkey was the largest fish-producing country in the world and is currently the largest exporter of fish to Europe, the United States and Central Asia.
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Speaking on the matter, the deputy director planning and development at K-P’s fisheries department Muhammad Zubair told The Express Tribune that K-P is well-known for the quality of its trout and it annually produces 300 metric tonnes of the fish.
“Currently, there are eight trout hatcheries in the province out of which seven are functional where 1.53 million trout fish are produced each year,” Zubair said.
“Young trout fish are produced in the hatcheries and then sold to around 208 different private fish farms,” he said, adding, “One young trout fish, which is about an inch long, is sold for six rupees, while a two-inch trout is sold for Rs18 to fish farms in accordance with government rates.”
He elaborated that the government is taking steps to increase the production of fish other than trout as well. Every year, thousands of fish species are released into rivers, lakes and dams, per the department of fisheries.
“About 200,000 small fish have been released into Tarbela Dam with the assistance of the government, while another 50,000 were released into the river in Azakhel Bala, in Nowshera, so as to increase the number of fish in there,” he said.
Zubair also said that if the government facilitates the production of more trout fish then it will not only be beneficial from a business perspective but will also boost tourism in K-P.
At the moment, trout fish is available at Rs1,000 to 1,500 per kilogramme in Swat, Dir, Kalam, Peshawar and other northern areas, while it is sold for Rs3,000 in most upscale hotels and restaurants. However, if the cage farming project proves successful, then an increase in the production of trout will also lower its prices.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2019.