Mariculture in India: Do we need it only on the economic front? A holistic view.

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 13th, 2023

Mariculture and its ramifications for India


Mariculture is the sub-branch of aquaculture, which implies an aquatic equivalent of agriculture or farming on land. Defined broadly, it is an activity necessitating cultivation of marine organisms, both plants, and animals for food production and other products for consumption by a human. The marine organisms can be cultivated in a confined environment like ponds, tanks, an enclosed section of sea, etc which may be completely marine or mixed to various ratios with freshwater.

The Need for Mariculture

  • It is accepted that with world population increasing, the food available per head is diminishing and it is, therefore, necessary not only to intensify production from existing areas but also to find additional areas for food population.
  • If the experience in the eastern countries ( Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Japan) is any guide it will be seen that the coastal swamps of these countries are being profitably diverted to food production and in this process, gain benefits such as creating employment in the rural areas, export-oriented economic prowess, migration problems from rural to urban areas, etc.
  • It has also been shown that production from a unit area of a controlled environment is much more than from open natural waters

The Importance and Benefits of Mariculture

Many of the research attempts involve the introduction of external genes and gene products into food crops, and these are opposed by a group of people who do not want genetic engineering and genetically modified plants. Mariculture provides a solution to this, failing which food production may not increase all to feed the ever-growing population of the world.

  • The most efficient use of photosynthesis is by micro and macroalgae, such as seaweeds. These contribute to about 50% of all photosynthesis in the world. And many of them, notably those with dark green, red and brown color, are edible. They are with low calorific value and nutrient-rich food items and eaten by people in most parts of South East Asia – Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Korea, and Japan, and also in some in the coastal Atlantic region.
  • Seaweeds are rich sources of vitamins A and C, and minerals such as Ca, Mg, Zn, Se, and Fe. They also have a high level of vegetable proteins and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which can be very useful for the nutrients bereft population of rural coastal India.
  • Above all, they are vegetarian and can be easily accepted by the population of coastal regions which are predominantly Hindus.
  • On the economic fronts, Sustainable Mariculture offers possibilities for sustainable protein-rich food production and for economic development of local communities. Unsustainable fish species can be eliminated which will further increase the economies of scale thereby improving the quality and quantity of fishes procured. Fishes that are derived out of the mariculture techniques are known to be of more better quality and are much better in comparison to fishes which are raised through other technique elsewhere.

Mariculture and India  

  • India, a country with a massive coastline of about 7,500km, should not forget the vastness of its coast, much of which breeds seaweeds.
  • Around 844 seaweed species have been reported by India through Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), which has been doing some pioneering research work in the area of edible seaweeds.
  • Researches point out that, of the 306 seaweeds in the Gulf of Mannar, 252 are edible. Which gives enough reasons for India to embark on Mariculture as vigorously as Agriculture, given its 7,500 km-long coastal lines. Further, Mariculture does not require any pesticides, fertilizers, and water for irrigation, which is an added advantage.

The absence of a proper policy was a major lacuna to enhancing Mariculture farming in India till now. But recently Government came out with Draft Policy on Mariculture.  Key features of the Policy are:

  • Mariculture Area Development: It has mooted demarcating mariculture zones and mariculture park by identifying special areas in the sea through remote sensing and GIS help.
  • Climate-resilient mariculture species, systems, and practices will be developed.
  • It seeks to provide additional livelihood options to coastal communities.
  • Research on offshore mariculture, development of submersible cages and automation of cage operations in mariculture will be promoted.
  • Development of newer technologies for post-harvest handling, value addition and marketing will be promoted
  • Selective breeding technologies to improve growth, disease resistance, flesh quality, aesthetic value and adaptability of species to varying environmental conditions are to be promoted.
  • Technologies will be developed for the production of heat resilient strains of seaweeds.
  • The government will make necessary amends in the extant rules to permit mariculture in selected areas with adequate safeguards to ensure that the conservation efforts are not compromised.

The enterprise would expand further with the availability of favorable policy guidelines for the utilization of coastal waters and increased private investments. Though the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) conducts few seaweed cultivation programs they are also in nascent stages. 

Given India’s vast coastline, a long-term view of sustainable coastal and open sea mariculture should be envisaged and appropriate measures are taken. It is estimated that effective utilization of at least one percent of this vast resource could achieve an annual production of more than 30 lakh tonnes of fish from sea-cage farming. When land availability becomes scarce, sea cage farming will prove to be an opportunity to fish farmers. Diversification of cultural practices and the inclusion of new candidate species for mariculture will definitely augment fish production

However, uncontrolled farming activities can create long-lasting damage to the ecosystem, affecting the fishery resources in the vicinity of farms. Therefore, a concrete policy is essential to promote open sea-cage farming of fishes and shellfishes in an eco-friendly manner.

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