Trout cultivation in Himachal Pradesh is set to get a big boost with the state government planning to encourage more private players. Brown and rainbow trout are abundant in the state. Being a game fish, it is an angler’s delight.
“We (the fishery department) are encouraging farmers to adopt trout farming under a central government-assisted scheme to boost production,” state fishery department director B.D. Sharma told IANS.
“Our main focus this year is to establish at least 100 run-of-river farms in Shimla, Kinnaur and Chamba districts to fill the gap between demand and supply. This will also help locals raise their standard of living,” Sharma said.
As per fishery department estimates, commercial production of trout during 2008-09 would be around 70 tonnes, and is expected to cross 100 tonnes at the end of the next financial year.
A 600-km stretch on the Beas, Sutlej and Ravi rivers in the upper Himalayas is the habitat of trout. The state has 81 trout farms, including six that are run by the government, mainly in Kullu and Mandi districts.
“These are areas where no other fish species survive because of the extreme cold climate, but the high altitudes of Shimla, Kinnaur and Chamba districts have proved perfect for trout propagation,” said M.S. Johal, chief investigator of an India-US project, “Ecology of hill streams of Himachal Pradesh and Garhwal”.
He said in the US, where rainbow trout is in high demand, more than 90 percent of trout available in the market is farm-reared.
According to him, improved availability of feed and selective breeding practices can now make it possible to produce market-size fish in as little as 10 months.
“If the hill state manages to make optimum use of its water resources, it can emerge as the leader in aquaculture,” added Johal, who is also a former professor at the Department of Zoology, Panjab University.
Ishwar Dhiman, a fish farmer from remote Nagni village in Kullu district, said the trout price at Chandigarh is between Rs.300 and Rs.350 a kg. In Delhi, it is sold at around Rs.400 a kg.
According to Dhiman, the major problem in marketing trout is that it starts rotting faster than other fish. “We prefer to sell it in nearby areas. It’s selling at around Rs.220 per kg in Manali,” he said.
Agreed fishery director Sharma: “Trout marketing is a big problem for those who individually sell their produce in Delhi and Mumbai. We are encouraging them to form cooperatives so that their produce can be marketed even in foreign shores.”
The history of trout in Himachal Pradesh dates back to colonial rule. The British introduced trout in 1909 to promote angling. At that time fingerlings were released in various streams.