Collector K.P. Karthikeyan on Thursday had first-hand experience of open sea cage fish culture in the coastal hamlet of Kooththenkuzhi in Tirunelveli district when he ventured into the sea in a boat for about a km and took a look at the cages lowered into the sea with fingerlings.
The coastal hamlet of Kooththenkuzhi in the district, housing around 300 fiberglass country boats, created an open sea cage fish farming facility on a trial basis in February last to improve the living standards and the economic status of the fishermen by increasing seafood production.
Open sea cage culture involves growing fish in the sea in natural conditions while being enclosed in a net cage, which allows the free flow of seawater into the cage. It is a fish production system comprising a floating frame of varying dimensions and shape, net materials and mooring system to hold and culture a large number of fish.
When the system was introduced at Chippikulam near Thoothukudi a few years ago, after local fishermen, who were stakeholders of the scheme, were trained by Thoothukudi-based Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), it paid rich dividends to the beneficiaries. Hence, the programme has been introduced in Kooththenkuzhi also.
Earlier, with the guidance of CMFRI, Thoothukudi, preliminary works such as formation of fishermen group, capacity building, exposure visit and fixing of a geo reference suitable to land the cage were done at Kooththenkuzhi. Subsequently, two fishermen self-help groupsi, each with 15 beneficiaries, were created. Ten members will be joint owners of the venture and the rest will be engaged in other miscellaneous jobs such as feeding and marketing.
After CMFRI, Thoothukudi, imparted comprehensive skill development training programme to the beneficiaries about the system and its related activities such as seed selection, feeding, cage management and stocking, technical training sessions were conducted for thems. A Varanasi-based company trained them in preparing cages with the dimensions of seven metre diameter and seven metre depth.
The fishermen groups fix the nets and moor the system in the sea, stock the cages with fish seed, feed the fish seed at regular intervals, clean and change the nets as and when required and monitor the fish growth daily.
The species selected for the venture is sea bass ( koduva) as it is successfully practised in many Asian countries. Seeds of sea bass were transported from Thiruvananthapuram and 1,000 seeds were released in each of the two cages. The fishermen venture into the sea in fiberglass boat on turn basis to feed the fingerlings. The fingerlings weighing around 40 gram (10 cm length) were put in the cage, which would grow into adults weighing two to three kg within six or seven months.
According to CMFRI officials, harvest from each cage will be up to two tonnes of fish in one season and they commanded a farm gate price of ₹300 to ₹320 per kg.
Dr. Karthikeyan, after visiting the site in the sea to understand the project and growth of the 78-day-old fingerlings, said the scheme would be extended to other coastal villages of the district based on the success of the trial in Kooththenkuzhi.