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Sunday, 31 March 2013

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Master plan to improve fisheries industry and promote investment:

NARA to develop aquaculture



NARA Chairman,
Dr. S.G. Samarasundera

The National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), the research arm of the Fisheries Ministry plans to implement various marine research programs along the Sri Lankan waters, NARA Chairman, Dr. S.G. Samarasundera told the 'Sunday Observer'.

He said NARA provides all support to the Fisheries Ministry to achieve self-sufficiency in fish production. Aqua products have become the main commodity worldwide compared to other products.

Shrimp farming and fresh water ornamental fish farming are practised in Sri Lanka for commercial purposes. A few marine aquarium fish are also being bred in captivity. Other commercial level fin fish and shell fish aquaculture is in a developing stage. Since there is a vast natural resource and suitable environmental conditions for aquaculture, Sri Lanka has much potential to develop the sector which contributes to the increase of national fish production, Dr. Samarasundara said. He said the sustainable use of the fishery resource is important to achieve the production targets. It can be achieved by promoting the sustainable utilisation of the unexploited high demand fin and shell fish species to be popularised on a commercial scale which would lead the way to higher incomes and export earnings.

The Chairman said: "Aquaculture and farming contribute significantly to the global fish and shell fish production. It is a highly developed industry in the East Asian region. Mollusk, finfish, shellfish and sea cucumber culture is at its very initial stage in Sri Lanka.


Raft culture of mussels

"With the 30-year war against terrorism and the most suitable sites being in the North, aquaculture potential was hardly exploited. Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has instructed NARA to identify the resources and develop a master plan to develop the industry. With the assistance of consultants from Korea and Japan, and local expertise, NARA is producing an action plan to develop the industry and create investment opportunities in the field of aquaculture.

"NARA has identified commercially important marine species such as the fin fish species namely; sea bass, grouper and milk fish shell fish species such as shrimps mud crab sea crab spiny lobsters and species such as sea cucumber which are naturally available and are high value species for aquaculture in Sri Lanka. Locally available sea weed species such as Gracilaria sp. and exotic sea weed varieties, such as Kappaphycus alverezii are commercially important aquatic plant species for farming.

A female crab with eggs
Oysters cling on to mangrove roots
Oyster

"The world mollusc production amounted to 13.1 million metric tons in 2008. Asia contributed almost 73 percent while only 27 percent came from the rest of the world. Molluscs culture contributes 20 percent from the total aquaculture production of Asia. The major mollusc producing countries in the ASEAN region are Japan, Korea and China. Among the species of bivalves cultured and harvested from the wild in the region are oysters, cockles and mussels.

"Oysters are very nutritious. They contain a high level of glycogen which makes an excellent source of energy that reduces the work load of the pancreas of the human body. Complex sugars in the bloodstream must be broken down into glycogen by enzymes which the pancreas secretes before they are stored in the liver. Glycogen provided from oysters will reduce the work load of the pancreas.

"Edible bivalve species namely oysters, mussels clams, cockles and other economically important species are naturally available in marine and brackish water bodies throughout the coastal areas of Sri Lanka.

"At present bivalve farming is also at its initial stage and since there is a great potential for development of the industry in Sri Lanka, the Divinaguma program under the patronage of Minister Basil Rajapaksa has initiated 2 main programs on Oyster and Mussel culture in the Mannar and Tricomalee districts. At present we have identified around 100 low income families and set up culture sites as a livelihood development project. I would like to promote this to the private sector for investment as it is a profitable industry.

There is a high demand for oyster and mussels worldwide and NARA is willing to give the necessary technical support to any private party who would invest in the industry. NARA is also starting a market research for the local consumption of oyster and mussel as the booming hotel industry requires large quantities. We are able to direct the parties interested to the best sites with the most natural resources. These sites are mainly in the North Western and North Eastern provinces", Dr. Samarasundara said.

At present, the minimum value of a kilo of sea cucumber is about 140 USD. NARA has the technical skills in breeding sand fish and would wish the private sector to take the initiative to develop farms and be a part of this lucrative industry. Crabs of the genus Scylla are strongly associated with mangrove areas throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans and form the basis of substantial fishery and aquaculture operations.

There are two basic forms of land-based mud crab aquaculture: fattening of crabs with a low flesh content, and grow-out of juveniles to market size.

Fattening is a very profitable activity, employing high densities of crabs and low costs. However, total production is low because of mortalities due to cannibalism, NARA chairman said.He said, "further research is required into the habitat preferences of each species so that production techniques can be modified to suit their respective requirements.

With advances in the hatchery production of mud crab juveniles for stocking into ponds and enclosures, the future of mud crab aquaculture looks promising.

"There has been an artisanal mud crab fishery in the country for several decades. With the high demand and export of crab, this sector generates foreign exchange and constitutes an important means of income generation for local communities.

However, the increase in coastal populations, the high demand for mud crabs from foreign countries, the ease of collection in shallow coastal waters by traps, gill nets, scoop nets, hand picking and the introduction of fattening for soft shell crabs have all combined to cause overfishing of this valuable resource.

Despite the importance of mud crabs, information of their biology and ecology which is crucial for management is scarce in Sri Lanka".

NARA has planned to provide the following services and facilities for investors interested in the country such as, training, technology transfer, management and monitoring support and health certification for export.

Trincomalee district: It has an area of 2,727 square kilometres. It poses sheltered bays such as Thabalagam Bay, Kinniya Bay, Clappenberg Bay and Cod Bay which are suitable areas for sea farming development. Mannar district: Mannar has one of the biggest natural resources of oyster in Sri Lanka.

Puttalam district: This area has a huge potential for most of the discussed species because the Puttalam District has extensive lagoon and canal systems, and because of its proximity to Colombo, it is one of the most suitable areas for marine aquaculture.

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