National programme in place to monitor aquaculture diseases in India

There is huge potential for aquaculture in India and plans are afoot to promote multi-species cultivation unlike smaller countries that bank on a few species.

“It has become important for India, as a signatory to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), to introduce a surveillance programme to monitor aquatic diseases, said JK Jena, deputy director general, fisheries, Delhi. Jena is also the national coordinator, National Surveillance Programme for Aquatic Animal Diseases (NSPAAD).

“We are talking about giving regional importance. A person in West Bengal loves a different fish than the one in Gujarat or Kerala. The present freshwater aquaculture figure is around six million tonnes while it is about 0.5 million tonnes in brackish water which is mainly shrimp export.

The inland sector meets the demand of the domestic sector,” he said. Jena – who was in Kochi to participate at the 11th International Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum – said that diseases were hurting the sustainability of aquaculture. “Infectious diseases are rising and spreading to new areas due to intensification and diversification of aquaculture and globalization of trade.

We have seen an epidemics like white spot disease in penaeid shrimps, infections in finfish and white tail disease in freshwater prawns. Early detection is key to control emerging and exotic diseases in a profoundly interconnected world,” he said, adding that the ministry is looking at huge reservoirs in the country to promote aquaculture. We have three million hectares of reservoirs that can be used for aqua farming, he said.

The global demand for fish will increase by 30-40 million tonnes by 2030. Since capture fishery sector is already over exploited, production from aquaculture has to be enhanced to meet the increasing demand. India holds the second position in world aquaculture production, just behind China.

But, with increasing domestic demand, China’s position may change to net importer, providing opportunities to India to boost production and gain advantages in global market, said experts. So a monitoring system makes ample sense and national fisheries development board is running the NSPAAD programme in 15 states.

Another monitoring is happening in the form of ministry of commerce and industry’s export inspection council (EIC) that tracks imported species. “We are setting up a high-tech microbiology lab in Kochi as part of the programme.

There are lot of species coming in from different countries that are being processed as sea food here and exported. So our mandate is to ensure that no infection comes into the country and goes out as well. We monitor the origin of species that comes as raw material because the final product is going out of India,” said S K Saxena, EIC, Delhi.

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